Lakeshore News Tonight

This article underwritten by: Renetta DuBose

Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Talks Education, Healthcare and Jobs, Part III

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As the Northwest Indiana economy continues to struggle in the Post-Industrial Era, economic development experts are already crafting the next big plan.  The recent Legislative Symposium of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus held a session on what residents, especially minorities, need to do to prosper in the business world.

District 2 Indiana State Rep. Earl Harris led the discussion.  He said inclusion is key because too many minorities are excluded from high wage jobs.

“We got to figure out how we share the jobs that are available with the entire population.  Then we get from there and we start to talk about how we create more jobs,” said Rep. Harris.

Expansion of commuter rail is one option.  District 12 State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon has been working on adding South Shore Line services from Chicago to south Lake County in Munster, Dyer and Lowell.  She said the region can tap into federal dollars, but local funding is needed to match those dollars.  If the state of Illinois does not beat the region to it, she is confident additional rail service will boost jobs.

“If we have the ability to provide transportation to people that work in Chicago, they’ll be more apt to live in our communities and spend those economic tax dollars here in Lake County,” said Rep. Candelaria Reardon.

“Businesses can also help the local economy.  Economic development panelists told the group residents hoping to own their own business need access and information in order to make the first step.  The Indiana Small Business Development Center is an option that people, especially young entrepreneurs, can use to get assistance in obtaining capital, launching a business and creating jobs in Indiana.

“When I wanted a bank loan, I went to a bank.  The bank is making a decision and the bank is not really in the position to provide mentorship, it’s a conflict of interest. So, the ISBDC works as that liaison.  It was established by the Small Business Administration for that very purpose,” said Jacob Schpok, State Director of the Indiana Small Business Development Center and Executive Director of the Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“A lot of the businesses that are in trouble right now do not need a loan.  They need to get rid of old inventory.  They need to reduce the space that they are paying for and paying for the electrical bills, the water bills.  A lot of them need to find a new marketing stream.  The people that were buying their products before are now buying something else,” said Gail Gesell, the District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Hard times are a reality, but Schpok said his office is still the better option.

“Even successful entrepreneurs who may have fallen into business and they weren’t managing their business, but they were managing the growth or they were bringing people on board when new contracts were realized and then a recession hits.  Or there’s a disruption in the environment, in the industry.  How are they going to manage that fluctuation?  If they can’t go to a bank and obtain a bank loan, they have to have a plan established after three years of high tailed growth,” said Schpok.

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