Northwest Regional Logistics Council Unveils Strategic Plan to Strengthen Northwest Indiana’s Logistics Industry

(Portage, Ind., September 15, 2015) The Conexus Indiana Northwest Regional Logistics Council (NWRLC) today released its regional logistics strategic plan that details long-term infrastructure, public policy and talent development priorities to grow the logistics industry and the economy in the 11-county region.*

NWRLC, created by Conexus Indiana, brought together 32 logistics executives and thought leaders from Northwest Indiana into a partnership with the Northwest Indiana Forum, regional economic groups and chambers of commerce to develop strategies, goals and tactics to maximize short- and long-term success for the logistics sector in the region.

“Our all-volunteer group dedicated countless hours to developing this plan, which we titled Advancing Northwest Indiana’s Logistics as the Gateway to the World in recognition of both our location in the population center of the United States and the significant logistics assets already in place in the region,” said Kevin Lhotak, chair of the NWRLC and president of Reliable Transportation Specialists in Chesterton. “Working from a common agenda, we achieved alignment of priorities in infrastructure, public policy and workforce development issues to maximize short- and long-term success for the business community and the residents of Northwest Indiana.”

Advancing Northwest Indiana’s Logistics as the Gateway to the World identifies 54 infrastructure projects, as well as public policy and workforce development opportunities, and establishes priorities for implementation. Infrastructure projects include road, rail, air and waterborne transportation, and projected costs are outlined for each. Priorities were determined based on the potential for each to decrease transportation bottlenecks, increase direct rail service, increase use of regional air facilities for freight, and improve mode-to-mode connectivity within the region.

Northwest Indiana must address the severe bottlenecks on its regional highways and its limited rail access, both of which slow the transportation of goods and passenger vehicles. Priority projects to meet these goals include converting the existing 4-lane US 30 highway to a full access-controlled freeway with interchanges at major intersections to relieve congestion and provide better traffic flow; designing and building the Illiana Expressway, an 8-lane connector from US 30 in Lake County to SR 49 in Porter County to relieve the combined bottleneck truck and car congestion on I-65, I-80/90 and I-94; constructing a new lock at Soo to ease the passage of large vessels between Lake Superior that feed the steel mills and power plants of Northwest Indiana; and designing and building rail lines into Kingsbury Industrial Park to provide a niche multimodal rail service yard for the distribution of cold storage commodities to and from Tampa Bay, Fla, via CSX rail providing direct rail access.

“The plan includes major regional projects, as well as smaller – but important – local projects,” said Heather Ennis, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum. “Maintaining and increasing our logistics assets at both the regional and the local level creates opportunities to grow our economy and ensure more high-paying logistics jobs for Hoosiers.”

“This is a detailed asset map of Northwest Indiana’s logistics resources, and that is a huge asset in itself,” added Don Babcock, director of economic development for NIPSCO in Merrillville. “With it we can increase funding, public policy and workforce development initiatives through public/private partnerships. All of that makes our region more attractive to logistics businesses considering relocating or expanding in the region, and that provides increased mobility and job opportunities for residents of the region.”

To that end, the plan addresses the importance of ensuring federal, state and local governments do not regulate barriers to the safe, efficient and innovative movement of goods and resources through the region and to ensure adequate funding to support the infrastructure priorities.

Educational opportunities to meet the next generation of business needs for skilled workers in the regional logistics industry are identified to respond to the shortages of air cargo pilots, truck drivers, barge captains, locomotive engineers, warehouse/logistics maintenance technicians and 4-year degree supervisors and supply chain graduates.

“Increasing the job prospects and upward mobility of workers in Northwest Indiana is an essential function of Advancing Northwest Indiana’s Logistics as the Gateway to the World,” said Lhotak. “Addressing workforce development to proactively provide the skills businesses need achieves increased opportunities for employees today and in the future. Logistics excellence can maximize our economic strength in so many ways.”

The NWRLC is one of six regional councils developed by the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council (CILC) at the request of the Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana Economic Development Corporation and the Ports of Indiana to identify state, regional and local logistics needs in each area of the state.

“Like those of the other five regional logistics councils, Advancing Northwest Indiana’s Logistics as the Gateway to the World is the product of the hard work of volunteer logistics executives, the Northwest Indiana Forum and both public and nonprofit organizations that share our commitment to the future of Indiana’s position as the ‘Crossroads of America,’” said David Holt, vice president of operations and business development at Conexus Indiana.

The entire Plan can be downloaded at www.Conexusindiana.com.

About Conexus Indiana:

Conexus Indiana is the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, dedicated to making Indiana a global leader. Conexus Indiana is focused on strategic priorities like workforce development, creating new industry partnerships and promoting Indiana’s advantages in manufacturing and logistics. Learn more at www.ConexusIndiana.com.

About the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council:

Conexus Indiana created the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council for executives in the industry to explore short- and long-term issues, opportunities and obstacles to growth in their businesses, and to develop strategies to ensure Indiana remains a logistics leader. The Council and its six regional councils are an unprecedented collaboration of logistics executives and thought leaders from throughout the state representing all sectors of the logistics user community.

*The Indiana counties within the Northwest region are Benton, Carroll, Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, Starke, Warren and White.