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Indiana agency's model spreads throughout state

WSBT 22

After a decade of challenges, a state agency in northwest Indiana is thriving and helping other areas in the state pool resources for regional projects that need a boost.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority began with a series of fits and starts, but was reauthorized in the 2015 session of the Indiana Legislature, The (Northwest Indiana) Times (http://bit.ly/2mBk9vx) reported.

Today, six more RDAs have joined northwest Indiana in trying to build more livable communities in their areas. The north central, northeast and southwest regions are engaged in economic development activities after winning $42 million of state grants in the Regional Cities Initiative competition.

"The RDA has become a stabilizing influence so you can do more long-term planning," state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said recently.

The Northwest Indiana RDA's reauthorization in 2015 refocused its mission on two local train projects — South Shore's West Lake Corridor and Double Track NWI. Northwest Indiana RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said the rail projects, and the transit-oriented development the RDA is working on, fulfill its goal of "economic development, talent acquisition and repopulation."

"It's a historic thing in the sense we've done a lot of projects that have had a regional impact, but each project was in a single municipality," Hanna said. "This TOD project, with Double Track and West Lake, you're really seeing an opportunity to lift everybody up at the same time."

The RDA was the brainchild of former Democratic state Rep. Chet Dobis of Merrillville. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels strongly supported it.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com

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