Taking a Regional Approach to Economic Development

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: September 10, 2012

Cultivating a network of partners in your backyard, around the state and across the Midwest is a proven way for success in economic development.

While Michigan City Economic Development Corporation knows its local businesses very well, we believe it’s important to reach out to partners elsewhere to take advantage of opportunities to create new growth opportunities here. Among the various partners we work with, one of our most important is the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). It has a varied toolbox of incentives and encyclopedic knowledge to answer any questions a prospective business might have.life-network-lcl 125x125

But before any of the IEDC’s tools can be used, it’s first up to us to identify the areas of best growth potential in the community. What kinds of jobs do we want in our community? Is the company one that will provide a solid economic foundation for the future? When those questions are answered, we take that information to the IDC and work with them in our best efforts to lure new business to the community.

“We couldn’t do our work without the local Economic Development Corporations,” says Katelyn Hancock, the director of media relations for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. “Sometimes the lead comes through it and sometimes it comes from somewhere else. But once the company packs a site, we get involved.”

In Michigan City, the necessities of providing adequate road or rail access, bringing in utilities and helping companies find a qualified workforce are things we and the IEDC work to accomplish together. Hancock says each company has its own procedures for finding a new location and much of the initial work is left up to them.

“Every company we work with has their own way of doing things and every company has its own specific needs,” says Hancock. “Those needs vary from region to region around the state, which is why we have project managers in all regions. It’s their full-time job to work on attracting business to that region.”

In Northwest Indiana, we work with Jim Staton, who is the regional director for the IEDC. The MCEDC keeps in touch with Jim and with other local and regional people, like the Northwest Indiana Forum, developers, real estate companies and planners.

When it comes to competing with other states to lure businesses, Indiana doesn’t offer much upfront cash incentives. But Hancock says that doesn’t put Indiana at a competitive disadvantage because of the toolbox the IEDC has to work with.

"The foundation built by Governor Daniels with corporate income tax reductions nd the fiscal stability of Indiana gives us an advantage that other states don’t have,” says Hancock. Indiana has a AAA bond rating, one of just nine states to be rated so highly.

When the MCEDC travels around the Midwest and to other places in the country to meet with planners, developers and business executives those tools turn out to be an important part of the recruiting process. Each time I’m out on the road, the Michigan City Development Corporation becomes the chief marketing agency in the recruitment process.

And once a company is interested in Michigan City, we then tap into the assets of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, including their worker training programs and other incentives. Locally, city and county officials can provide tax abatement and expedite the permit process for construction, new roads, and utility rights of way. “The way it works,” says Hancock, “is that businesses can’t get state incentives without local support.”

We think that’s important because even though organizations like the IEDC are our partners, it’s ultimately up to us to close the sale on bringing any new business to Michigan City.