A greener economy is a stronger economy


Indiana’s economic indicators are strong, but we lag behind the country in per capita income


NWI: Off the Grid

Northwest Indiana is prime to lead the country’s combined agenda of climate and growth because of our location, open lands, rail, port access and proximity to the Great Lakes. My “NWI: Off the Grid” plan combines a strong economic vision with regional marketing that maps out our natural resources, industry, and transport access points, to rebuild our tax base and move Indiana’s economic outlook into overdrive. NWI: Off the Grid is a comprehensive economic plan for building a new low-emission infrastructure with regional wind, solar, hydropower, and bioconversion investments. Other states moving in this direction have shown exponential growth in their construction industry, benefitting local construction workers and labor unions with sustainable and well paid jobs.


NWI: Off the Grid - Closing the Income Gap

Sabrina’s economic development plan is specifically designed to increase the number of union-wage jobs in the region, to help close the income gap for economically depressed areas in the district. The poorest cities in NWI suffer from a stagnant income level that is far below the state and national average. For example, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago show an average residential income of $18,460, $15,983, and $13,517, respectively, which is less than a third of more affluent areas in the region. Sabrina’s plan will help close the income gap, and draws on engineers’ statewide estimate of 38,000 manufacturing and assembly jobs, 119,000 construction jobs, and 47,000 engineering jobs, outlined below.

Companies traditionally aligned with fossil-fuel are converting for profit, which proves the profitability of renewable energy:

1. NIPSCO is drawing strong stakeholder support for the company’s profit-based decision to eliminate coal by 2028, estimating it will save them $4 billion by 2037. 

2. BP Oil is investing in and operating major wind energy businesses throughout the US. 

3. Exxon mobile is now one of the world’s leading investors in alternative energy including wind and solar energy. 

4. Indiana’s wind farms have brought billions in investments in wind and solar to Indiana’s Tippecanoe, White, Benton, and Marion counties, and one farm has paid over $44 million to landowners through 2018 alone. 

5. The Indianapolis International Airport is home to the largest airport-based solar farm in the world, with an initial investment of $700m. Solar energy is particularly well-suited to airports because of available space and clearance required by FAA regulations, which leads to unobstructed terrains that are otherwise non-productiveI


NWI: Off the Grid - Manufacturing Plan

Northwest Indiana’s proximity to steel, rail, air, and a major shipping port makes NWI the nation’s prime location for manufacturing wind and solar components. Alternative energy is the fastest growing sector of the US economy, while the global offshore wind industry is predicted to exceed one trillion dollars by 2040.

Sabrina wants to lead NWI’s initiative to join companies including Japan’s Panasonic /Tesla partnership in Buffalo, NY, the PV manufacturing facility in Whitfield County, GA, and LG Electronics’ plant in Huntsville, AL, to produce solar panels and components in NWI. 

In addition to NWI’s enviable industrial location- near a major metropolitan area, situated at the interstate crossroads of the US, with exceptional rail transport as well as access to a major shipping port- NWI is also right next to the main component of wind turbine and solar panel construction: steel.  Most of the components of a wind turbine* are also composed of steel, including:

· Foundation 

· Tower

· Nacelle 

· Rotor

· Fittings

· Casing

*Turbine blades are generally made of other materials, such as carbon fiber or alloys, but steel holds the turning blades in place with a cast iron or forged steel rotor hub. 

Supporting the development of a robust domestic wind and solar component industry will allow NWI to diversify its industrial base, adding thousands of union-wage scale production jobs. By one estimate, the number of wind and solar component manufacturing jobs that realistically will be added to Indiana exceeds 38,000 employees.  Indiana’s commercial and industrial sector could expand greatly by attracting more manufacturers to the state through expanded renewable energy options.  In January 2020, Advanced Energy Economy commissioned a report by WoodMackenzie showing that Indiana could create an additional 25,000 jobs if commercial and industrial (C&I) businesses had more options to procure renewable energy through their electric utilities. The best news? Democrats and Republicans alike support this plan. Cohen, Martin, NRDC Issue Paper: A Clean Energy Economy for Indiana,  Referring to Indiana’s opportunity to become the nation’s center for wind power components, former Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) said, “There is no better place in America, perhaps on the planet, to manufacture the necessary equipment.”


NWI: Off the Grid - The Construction Plan

Sabrina’s plan has some features of the Green New Deal tailored to NWI, and combines a strong economic vision with regional marketing. Her plan is to increase the number of union jobs in NWI through a renewable energy infrastructure build-out leading to dramatic increases in union-wage construction jobs. The latest engineer’s report estimates that the number of 40 year construction jobs needed to convert Indiana will be 119,791, and the number of 40 year engineering jobs in Indiana will be 47,951. 

Similar to the WPA, Sabrina suggests a nationally coordinated response to climate change employing federal emergency resources and creating an alternative energy workforce to upgrade the grid, assess connectivity and transport issues, including the need for additional transformers and battery storage capacity, and to make load/capacity adjustments in the transport. She proposes partnering with existing initiatives, and dividing the region into greening subdivisions with farmers, urban residents, municipal planners, utilities, and technology/ alternative energy experts to share information, assess landowner interest and profit potential, assess rooftop solar potential, and map out a viable conversion plan over the next ten years. 


NWI: Off the Grid - Making Industry Our Partner

In the near future, domestic steel could face a major competitive disadvantage if foreign researchers patent emerging technologies for renewables-based steel production. Researchers in Germany and Sweden are intensely pursuing the development of hydrogen-based steel, and they are heavily subsidized. If we don’t provide similar federal research support to the domestic steel industry, US steel could lose competitive pricing once those alternative technologies are refined and implemented abroad. Given the costs of wide-scale conversion, the US must provide federal resources to convert the heaviest carbon-producing sectors of the US economy (ammonia, concrete, steel, and ethylene), because no company or sector can do it alone and still remain competitive. Domestic steel has already undertaken efforts to reduce the use of coke and fuel to recycle slag and scrap, and to invest in R&D for carbon capture.  Equally important is their commitment to producing lighter steel, with its repercussive effect on transportation’s carbon output. 

Sabrina’s additional steel-specific initiatives include:


1. Driving federal resources to domestic steel for R&D for research and infrastructure upgrades over the next 20 years, to prevent steel from facing a competitive disadvantage from steel produced entirely from renewable energy. 

2. Sharing industry-specific information about technological advances. The country’s first all-solar steel mill is set to open in Colorado, and the country’s first wind powered steel mill will soon open in Missouri. 

3. Stamping and banning dirty steel imported from China, Poland, S. Korea, India and Turkey. Those mills have the largest carbon output in the world, and we can help steel achieve greater energy independence while putting market pressure on those manufacturers.

4. Sabrina will fight to initiate a national ‘ban dirty’ plan to bar the importation of industrial products from foreign factories whose carbon output exceeds that of domestic manufacturers who make the same product. In addition to requiring a carbon imprint stamp that cannot be removed from steel coils, other industrial product imports would indicate carbon production from ‘dirty’ producers.  Shifting import bans and tariffs to reflect carbon output of global competition would be an excellent way to unify the American public behind supporting domestic industry on the basis of climate change rather than profit, even though the objectives of both are the same. The political left/ climate advocates would support banning or at least designating imports from manufacturers whose carbon output exceeds that of similar domestic factories, offering a rare opportunity to unite a divided country in support of domestic producers.  A ‘dirty ban’ initiative in the US would also be aligned with similar efforts emerging in countries seeking to meet their Paris Treaty obligations.


NWI: Off The Grid - as a Marketing Tool

The final piece of Sabrina’s economic plan is marketing the region to reflect its greening initiatives. As a former trademark licensing atty., she wants to re-brand the region with messaging consistent with going green to attract millennials, build the tax base where needed, and build on existing efforts to promote ecotourism-with billions in earnings potential for the region

Sabrina’s regional rebranding components include:


1. Building a solar highway from Chicago to Michigan City similar to the one in South Korea between Daejeon and Sejong. 

2. Strategic placement with signage of one or two wind turbines along I 90/94, to signal the region’s commitment to clean energy.

3. Marketing NWI: Off the Grid with photos, ads and commercials illustrating NWI’s natural habitats, wetlands, natural bogs, lakeshore, oak savannahs, and dunes.

4. Expanding the role of the National Park Service and the nation’s newest national park into a marketing partner that promotes the entire region as an eco-tourism and ecological preservation destination.

5. Investing in vacation rental tiny house communities in areas with sufficient land to support them, similar to projects throughout the country including Portland, Oregon. 

6. Partnering with the South Shore line to feature trip promotions between Chicago and natural destinations in the region, including parks, bike paths, and natural trail systems.

7. Strategic placement of electric golf cart rentals near South Shore exit points, to encourage local tourism and exploration.

8. Installation of electric vehicle charging stations along I90/94.


Measuring by the numbers

Here’s how Indiana ranks among all states in the top 10 categories driving economic development for 2019, according to comparison study: CNBC America's Top States for Business

CATEGORY                    SCORE   2019   2018   GRADE

Workforce                              236        29        40         C-

Economy                                  234        17        20         B  

Infrastructure                       241          1            2         A+

Cost of Doing Business   250          4            5         A+

Quality of Life                       101       44         46         F

Education                                   81       32         35         C-

Tech & Innovation                 84       30         28         C-

Business Friendliness       141        4             4         A-

Access to Capital                    46     21         24         B-

Cost of Living                            42        9         10         A- 

We can do better.  How? We start with bold honesty: we get an A+ in infrastructure but an F in quality of life! Our C- in workforce, education, and technology isn’t so great either. We need to address, and focus on, all grades of C- and below. I support targeted investment into the factors that matter most. 

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Indiana's First Congressional District