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BusINess » BusINess Story of the Week

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Obama’s goal for high speed rail has Ind., Ill. advocates smiling

High-speed trains are shown in the Part-Dieu train station in Lyon, central France. The Indiana High Speed Rail Association is pushing for a “signature” high speed rail project for Indiana, such as a Chicago to Indianapolis to Cincinnati route via a high-speed rail station at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, file)

High-speed trains are shown in the Part-Dieu train station in Lyon, central France. The Indiana High Speed Rail Association is pushing for a “signature” high speed rail project for Indiana, such as a Chicago to Indianapolis to Cincinnati route via a high-speed rail station at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, file)

Advocates for high-speed rail in the Midwest received new hope Tuesday when President Barack Obama set a goal of providing 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. For Illinois, that means routes where trains reach 220 miles per hour.

With a goal of putting 35 million people within a three-hour trip to Chicago, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association advocates building four bullet train routes. It also hopes existing Amtrak service will be modernized to bring trains up to speeds of at least 90 miles per hour by 2020.
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Reeling in Illinois businesses

The Indiana welcome sign is shown above Interstate 80/94 looking eastbound from Wentworth Avenue in Lansing. A number of regional groups are cooperating on an advertising campaign to highlight the area's transportation infrastructure, proximity to Chicago, work force and facilities. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times.)

The Indiana welcome sign is shown above Interstate 80/94 looking eastbound from Wentworth Avenue in Lansing. A number of regional groups are cooperating on an advertising campaign to highlight the area's transportation infrastructure, proximity to Chicago, work force and facilities. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times.)

Northwest Indiana economic development groups are seizing new opportunities to recruit disgruntled Illinois businesses. But the effort started long before Illinois raised its income taxes earlier this month.

A number of local groups are cooperating on an advertising campaign to highlight the area’s transportation infrastructure, proximity to Chicago, work force and facilities, said Karen Lauerman, marketing and communications director of the Northwest Indiana Forum, a private group that promotes economic development in the region.

“We’re working with our partners to focus on the advantages of Northwest Indiana and the rest of Indiana,” Lauerman said. “We’ll be using a variety of mediums for this significant public relations effort—everything from billboards to social media to specific advertising.”
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Indiana regulator, NiSource director planned day at the races

The field breaks from the starting gate in the first race on Keeneland's opening day of the fall meet in 2006, in Lexington, Ky. This August, a day after Indiana's top utility regulator approved an order authorizing NIPSCO to hike electric rates, a director of the utility's parent company sent a thankful e-mail inviting him to take in thoroughbred farms and the races in Kentucky Bluegrass country. (Photograph by Ed Reinke, file/The Associated Press.)

The field breaks from the starting gate in the first race on Keeneland's opening day of the fall meet in 2006, in Lexington, Ky. This August, a day after Indiana's top utility regulator approved an order authorizing NIPSCO to hike electric rates, a director of the utility's parent company sent a thankful e-mail inviting him to take in thoroughbred farms and the races in Kentucky Bluegrass country. (Photograph by Ed Reinke, file/The Associated Press.)

A day after Indiana’s top utility regulator approved an order authorizing NIPSCO to hike electric rates, a director of the utility’s parent company sent a thankful e-mail inviting him to take in thoroughbred farms and the races in Kentucky Bluegrass country.

In the next two weeks, the invitation was firmed up with offers of a stretch limo, a racetrack suite and dinner at an exclusive Lexington restaurant for then-Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission Chairman David Lott Hardy and his wife.
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Local schools serious players in economic development

NIPSCO engineer Tim Wright, left, stands on the roof of the NIPSCO Bailly Generating Station building in Chesterton with Dui Huang, Bin Wu and Tom Roesel, who are students in Purdue University Calumet's Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation. PUC students saved NIPSCO $1.9 million annually on a pollution control project. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan/The Times.)

NIPSCO engineer Tim Wright, left, stands on the roof of the NIPSCO Bailly Generating Station building in Chesterton with Dui Huang, Bin Wu and Tom Roesel, who are students in Purdue University Calumet's Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation. PUC students saved NIPSCO $1.9 million annually on a pollution control project. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan/The Times.)

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, is mining something besides iron ore these days—the knowledge and technology generated by local universities and colleges.

The company has a College Partnership Program and challenged Purdue University Calumet students at the new Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, or CIVS, to find a solution for a technical inefficiency in its strip processing line.
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Top local business stories in 2010

Teamsters Local 142 members Mike Turner, of Merrillville, left, and Tim Peters, of Hammond, picket in June in front of Grimmer Construction in Highland. Unions in Northwest Indiana took to the picket lines this summer as an aggressive measure to curb concessions and make a statement during one of the busiest times of the year for the construction industry. (Times file photo)

Teamsters Local 142 members Mike Turner, of Merrillville, left, and Tim Peters, of Hammond, picket in June in front of Grimmer Construction in Highland. Unions in Northwest Indiana took to the picket lines this summer as an aggressive measure to curb concessions and make a statement during one of the busiest times of the year for the construction industry. (Times file photo)

Labor unions’ strikes halt construction work

Unions in Northwest Indiana took to the picket lines this summer as an aggressive measure to curb concessions and make a statement during one of the busiest times of the year for the construction industry.

Members of Teamsters Local 142, Ironworkers Local 395 and other unions went on strike during the summer and affected projects ranging from school renovations to road construction.
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Economy drove news in 2010

Jesse Paloger holds up a sign while standing on Wall Street as he hopes to find a job, in New York. Paloger, who has an accounting and economics degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, has written on the bottom of his sign, “Go-getter from California looking for my shot!” Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits during the first full week of December, the third drop in the past four weeks and a sign that the job market is slowly improving. (Photograph by Mark Lennihan/Associated Press.)

Jesse Paloger holds up a sign while standing on Wall Street as he hopes to find a job, in New York. Paloger, who has an accounting and economics degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, has written on the bottom of his sign, “Go-getter from California looking for my shot!” Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits during the first full week of December, the third drop in the past four weeks and a sign that the job market is slowly improving. (Photograph by Mark Lennihan/Associated Press.)

Dismal signals mixed with glimmers of hope as the U.S. economy drove the news in 2010; the nation began a fledgling recovery from the worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression.

From charitable giving to local government, from real estate to transportation, all eyes were fixed on the economy’s twists and turns—which had the potential to spell ruin or salvation for companies, governments and people’s lives.
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Freight could lift NWI job, economic prospects

Trucks travel on the Borman Expressway between Broadway and Interstate 65. From 4 million to 16 million more trucks per year will roll on Northwest Indiana and Chicago roadways by 2035, according to a freight study by consultant Cambridge Systematics. (Photograph by Judy Fidkowski/the Times.)

Trucks travel on the Borman Expressway between Broadway and Interstate 65. From 4 million to 16 million more trucks per year will roll on Northwest Indiana and Chicago roadways by 2035, according to a freight study by consultant Cambridge Systematics.
(Photograph by Judy Fidkowski/the Times.)

Projects from across Northwest Indiana including the proposed Illiana Expressway and an intermodal facility in Kingsbury rose to the top of the pile in a poll of transportation experts conducted at a freight workshop in Portage on Monday.

About 30 railroad representatives, real estate developers, transportation officials and others took part in the morning-long workshop at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. NIRPC is looking for ways to support rail, truck and water-borne freight projects in its 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.
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Cloud over construction breaking, but slowly

Workers use a back hoe and hand shovel to dig foundations for jail cells at what will be a new government complex, police and fire station set to open in 2011 in Lake Station. At a conference for North American steel industry executives, customers and suppliers in Chicago last month, presenters gave outlooks for the construction sector that ranged from gloomy to slightly less gloomy. (Photograph by John Luke/The Times.)

Workers use a back hoe and hand shovel to dig foundations for jail cells at what will be a new government complex, police and fire station set to open in 2011 in Lake Station. At a conference for North American steel industry executives, customers and suppliers in Chicago last month, presenters gave outlooks for the construction sector that ranged from gloomy to slightly less gloomy. (Photograph by John Luke/The Times.)

Good and bad signs are forecast for the construction sector in 2011, but industry watchers agreed that it appears the ugly business conditions seen in recent years may be over.

At a conference for North American steel industry executives, customers and suppliers in Chicago last month, presenters gave outlooks for the construction sector that ranged from gloomy to slightly less gloomy. CRU, a London-based research and consulting firm, sponsored the three-day conference.
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NWI casino boosters confront Illinois’ challenge

Stakeholders think Horseshoe Casino can withstand competition from Illinois. (Times file photo)

Stakeholders think Horseshoe Casino can withstand competition from Illinois.
(Times file photo)

Illinois’ gambit to embark on a wholesale expansion of gambling with five new casinos, including one in Chicago and one in the south suburbs, is being carefully watched by those with a stake in the success of Northwest Indiana’s five casinos.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he thinks a casino in the south suburbs would be more of a competitor for Horseshoe than a downtown Chicago casino. But anyone who wants to compete with the Hammond boat will have his work cut out for him.

“In reality, at the end of the day, even if we have a boat on the other side of the border, it will have to stack up against Horseshoe and that will not be easy to do,” McDermott said.

Horseshoe is Indiana’s gaming heavyweight, with its annual revenues of more than $500 million per year accounting for about one-fifth of the state’s total gaming revenues.

Horseshoe generates more than $35 million in tax and revenue share for the city of Hammond, which has used the money to transform entire neighborhoods with new streets, sidewalks, sewers and even moderate-income housing.
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Shoppers out earlier than ever for Black Friday deals

A shopper at the Hobart Target on U.S. 30 carries a box on his head just after 4 a.m. on Black Friday, November 26, 2010. Hundreds of deal seekers lined-up outside stores and battled freezing temperatures to purchase items at discount prices. (Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks/The Times.)

A shopper at the Hobart Target on U.S. 30 carries a box on his head just after 4 a.m. on Black Friday, November 26, 2010. Hundreds of deal seekers lined-up outside stores and battled freezing temperatures to purchase items at discount prices.
(Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks/The Times.)

It was nearly 4 a.m., the wind chill was a frigid 5 degrees and Jim Willson was ready to go.

Willson of St. John got to Best Buy at 11:30 p.m. Thanksgiving night to get his spot toward the front of the line.

“It’s worth it,” Willson said, adding that he was going to save about $500 on laptops going for $189 that normally sell for $449 each.
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