CROWN POINT, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The new chief executive officer of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority says she plans to build upon the success of her predecessor to attract business, investment and people to the region. The RDA’s board of directors last week named Sherri Ziller the next president and CEO of the economic development organization. She had served in an interim role since February, succeeding Bill Hanna, who announced in January he had accepted a new job.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Ziller said she will continue to guide the RDA’s efforts to expand commuter rail and surface transportation in the region.
“This isn’t just about making it easier for Hoosiers to get to Chicago, but it’s also about making Northwest Indiana an even more attractive place to live, to work, to play,” said Ziller. “I’ll continue to encourage all of us to ask ourselves, what investments can we make as a region to accelerate that economic resilience and growth and really to become magnets for the talent that the Hoosier businesses need to thrive.”
Ziller is no stranger to the region, nor the organization. She grew-up in the area and has worked at the RDA since 2006. Ziller credits Hanna for paving the way for “transformative change” in northwest Indiana.
“He had the modernization and expansion of the South Shore commuter rail system. And it’s going to bring tremendous opportunity for transit-oriented development,” said Ziller.
Simply put, TOD is the development that happens around transit, such as potential projects that could result from the two major South Shore Line rail projects.
The West Lake Corridor project will add a nine-mile extension from Hammond to Dyer and is forecast to attract 11,000 new residents as a result. The second project is the Double Track project at Michigan City, which will allow for additional commuter trains, including express trains.
“Now that the rail projects are funded, and they’re going towards construction, we really only have one chance in how the area around each of our stations can be shaped to make sure that we’re setting up our communities for success over the next 10, 20 or 50 years from now,” said Ziller.
Ziller says the RDA and other stakeholders must be “bold in our decision making here” in taking full advantage of proximity to Chicago.
“We’ve demonstrated that Illinois businesses near the Indiana State border can be attracted to Indiana,” said Ziller. “With targeted efforts, given greater transit options, more of these businesses can relocate without disrupting their existing workforce.”