Thursday, July 8, 2010

NW Indiana Forum on local opportunities

If you wanted to open a new fast-food restaurant, bakery or gift shop, would you do it in Chicago or Valparaiso, Ind.? What if you wanted to build a new office building?

You’d have to consider a lot of factors, but there’s one area in which Valparaiso would probably win out: property taxes.

Indiana state law forbids property taxes of higher than 3 percent of a commercial property’s market value. Chicago, of course, doesn’t.

Don Koliboski, regional director of economic development for the Northwest Indiana Forum, wasn’t shy about promoting this property tax cap when he and I were discussing the benefits for businesses moving to Northwest Indiana, that swath of the state that stretches from the Chicago/Indiana border and runs through LaPorte County and to the border of Michigan.

It’s an area that some businesses may have overlooked, and it often gets lumped into the Chicago market. But Koliboski said that the region offers its own set of benefits to any businesses that want to open shop there. For one thing, there’s the property tax cap. But Northwest Indiana also boasts a skilled labor force, many trained from their work in the area’s steel mills; a low cost of living; and a great location served by road and rail.

It’s why the region’s Porter and LaPorte counties have seen commercial growth even during the down times of the recession, Koliboski said.

“We have a very business-friendly environment here,” Koliboski told me. “That’s what we sell.”

So far, that sales pitch seems to be working. As always, it’s nice to hear of a Midwest region that’s actually doing well in these challenging economic times.