It is an honor to serve as the U.S. Representative for Indiana’s First Congressional District, home to an extraordinary workforce, robust transportation network and invaluable environmental landscape.
Throughout my career as a public servant, I have looked for opportunities to bring our communities together and support all individuals and families in need. Northwest Indiana has many incredible economic and infrastructure assets, and I commend The Times of Northwest Indiana for creating this opportunity to highlight our strengths and inherent abilities that allow our communities to continue to grow and thrive.
One of the foundational strengths of Northwest Indiana resides in the workforce of the manufacturing, oil and steel industries, which have been central to our way of life since John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan arrived in our area at the turn of the 20th century. Their investments along the Lake Michigan shoreline have powered our economic strength and created diverse communities throughout our region for over 100 years. Today, as the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, I am working every day to build upon this strength to ensure that we compete on a level playing field in our global economy.
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Unfortunately, our nation’s trade policies and lack of infrastructure investments over the past decades are contributing to the supply chain and inflationary challenges of today. I voted for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to help address these concerns, and I am pleased that it has been signed into law and is anticipated to bring much needed improvements to our transportation infrastructure, including our airports, mass transit, and the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.
For all of these investments, I am proud that this law also strengthened Buy America requirements that ensure American iron, steel and manufactured goods will be utilized. American taxpayer dollars must be used to support domestic manufacturing and American workers, and this law will put members of organized labor to work and have a tangible economic impact.
Indiana’s First Congressional District is home to three municipal airports, including the Gary/Chicago International Airport. These entities will receive federal resources from the IIJA to increase safety and support investments in runways, taxiways and overall sustainability.
Commuter rail and mass transit are essential to the continued growth and improvement to the quality of life in Northwest Indiana. The ongoing West Lake Corridor project and the Double Track project on the South Shore Line will attract new people, businesses and good-paying jobs to our region. We are already seeing the benefits from the new construction and the transit-oriented developments taking place along the rail system. The IIJA will support federal Department of Transportation programs that fund these projects, and I look forward to continuing to work with state and local municipalities and stakeholders to leverage the availability of these federal resources to improve the quality of life in Northwest Indiana.
Additionally, the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is an economic driver for our region and supports the livelihoods of thousands of longshoremen and manufacturing workers in our industrial corridor. The IIJA will support its continued efficiency and operations, as more must be done to ensure that our port waters are dredged to depth, which in turn will enhance economic activity and the quality of life for all businesses and workers in our region.
Further, thanks to the IIJA, the EPA is taking action to address the legacy costs of past industrial polluters by cleaning up and restoring the water quality of the Grand Calumet River and the Great Lakes. The Grand Calumet River was once treated as an industrial discharge stream, and the federal funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) will be used to deliver significant environmental, economic, health, and recreational benefits to communities throughout the Great Lakes region.
Our unique environmental landscape should be preserved and improved to enhance our quality of life while opening new economic opportunities. I remain grateful that my friend and predecessor, Congressman Pete Visclosky, enabled our Indiana Dunes to become a National Park. Governor Holcomb and many Northwest Indiana entities are building upon his action by utilizing federal resources under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to improve access to our shoreline and biodiversity. The $50 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) grant will further connect our region through an improved trail system and continue to make Northwest Indiana a magnet for talent and economic growth.
In closing, as a public official focused on improving our quality of life, I believe that our priority must always first and foremost be the health and safety of individuals. COVID-19 has presented challenges for all of us, and I continue to be mindful of those we have lost during this difficult time and the importance of having resources and a coordinated response to public health challenges.
I am proud that one of my very first votes in Congress was in favor of the ARP, which utilized the full weight of our federal and state partnership, facilitated a national vaccination plan, and provided resources for families, small businesses, religious institutions and public schools. Notably, the Indiana National Guard hosted a federal vaccination site in Gary, where they administered over 60,000 vaccines. I remain forever grateful for the first responders, health care workers, and all workers who selflessly served the public during the pandemic, who embody the strength of our region that got us through this difficult time. Because of their valiant support, the economic strengths of our workforce, transportation network, and environmental landscape will continue to create a promising and positive future and quality of life for everyone in our region.
Frank J. Mrvan is a member of Congress representing Indiana’s first district.