Marie Foster-Bruns President & CEO of One Region
Northwest Indiana is at the forefront of a catalytic opportunity to solve global challenges and advance a Greater South Shore digital corridor that could revolutionize its economy. Timely investments in Northwest Indiana blended with trends in technology are elevating the relevance of this Region.
There are numerous global factors impacting our nation and these impacts are accelerating. According to NEXT Studios, an Indiana-based startup studio, the world recently entered a fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The first was centered on agriculture, the second was the emergence of manufacturing, the third was a technological industrial revolution based on automation, and today, we are in the fourth: the digital industrial revolution.
Technology is evolving exponentially — far faster than previous phases — and utilizes virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) to produce technological breakthroughs in areas such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things (IoT) and quantum computing. Additionally, it is changing industries like manufacturing, health care and logistics, all of which are important to Northwest Indiana.
This region has a significant opportunity to capitalize on this 4IR by leveraging investments and expanding an innovation ecosystem to support startup companies and job creation. Embracing this fortuitous moment is a must.
“The infrastructure investments in Northwest Indiana create a unique opportunity landscape with regards to innovation and creating and attracting a relevant workforce,” says John McDonald, managing entrepreneur with NEXT Studios. “Over 80% of new jobs in Indiana come from companies who are less than five years old, which means that startup companies are the job creators of our future, which is now.”
“These innovators already exist in Northwest Indiana. People can live next to an innovation ecosystem and not even know it,” states McDonald. “It’s time to invest in emerging technologies.”
The transformational results of innovation can be seen throughout the nation and this opportunity is on Northwest Indiana’s doorstep. Leveraging regional strengths and investments will not only thrust this region into the 4IR, it will become a leader at the forefront.
Northwest Indiana touts a rich quality of life with abundant resources like beautiful towns, water, trails, parks and some amazing supply chain infrastructure. This Region is fortunate to be part of an enterprising state whose strong budget allows for reinvestment into its future. It also has a seasonal climate with moderate extremes and biodiverse beauty in urban, rural and suburban settings.
This Region has multiple lakes in addition to Lake Michigan; hidden gems for vibrant sunsets and active lifestyles in a serene setting. Excellent, affordable schools span multiple municipalities and residents are proud to have at least 10 high-quality high schools ranked in the top 30 public and private school lists for Indiana.
Add to this, the expanded South Shore rail line will connect people more than ever before beginning in 2024. This faster rail line will not only link Northwest Indiana to the Prudential building in about 30 minutes, but it will also attract more commuters to live and work in the Region. The transit-oriented development around the stations will attract new residents who yearn for walkable communities and vibrancy.
Additional notable investments are preparing Northwest Indiana for the 4IR while strengthening its relevance.
New fiber with quantum research capabilities is being ignited throughout the region under multiple highways, connected by data centers. This multi-investment will attract corporations to house their servers in the Region while connecting quantum researchers to protect our country with the most secure network in the nation.
This will also be a catalyst for emerging technologies to benefit each of us in unique ways. For example, motor vehicles will give the elderly and persons with disabilities independence. AI can improve farmlands and agriculture to alleviate food deserts and IoT will make health care more affordable and equitable.
Combined, this fiber and rail will connect Chicago, Northwest Indiana, and South Bend to create the Greater South Shore, a hyper-connected, 90-mile advanced technology and research corridor to become a top North American destination for business, industry and educational advancement . Similar to the alignment between Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle, the Greater South Shore will become known as a Digital Hub to support emerging industry clusters to complement the expertise of the current regional workforce.
This concept of the Greater South Shore, led by Neighborhood Capital Institute, was launched at the 2021 One Region Luncheon where leaders gathered with US Sen. Todd Young, architect Gordon Gill, Cordell Carter from the Aspen Institute, and Congressman Frank Mrvan. The conversations revolved around the support for this connected corridor and willingness to actively engage in the project.
Northwest Indiana will propel into the 4IR when data and rail investments are fully leveraged to produce a complementary workforce, innovation ecosystem and elevated quality of life.
Municipal leaders and zoning officials can take advantage of the rail expansion by planning for and approving quality transit-oriented development to provide modern, walkable housing options for a future workforce. Many communities have already moved ahead with this housing and showcased their projects at the recent Destination 2024 housing summit hosted by One Region and the Regional Development Authority.
Business leaders can foster an innovation ecosystem by joining One Region as we facilitate connections among innovators, mentors and investors to determine pathways for igniting innovation into the fabric of Northwest Indiana. It will bolt the regional economy while producing emerging technologies.
Finally, communities, schools, industries and universities along the Greater South Shore can align around innovation to comprehensively leverage our Region’s strengths and investments.
This is the new, emerging Northwest Indiana — the connector of the Greater South Shore and full of vibrant, ambitious people connected by qubits, a National Park and rail. By leveraging valuable resources and investment, this region will experience growth through the innovative approach of creating an attractive technology hub in the quantum corridor. It is our destiny to be a leader for the Midwest and beyond.
Marie Foster-Bruns is president and CEO of One Region.