2021 Project Achievement and Leadership Award Blog Series: NIRPC Report Finds the Proliferation of E-commerce

Pandemic Accelerates Impacts of Online Shopping in Northwest Indiana 

The award-winning NIRPC report finds the proliferation of e-commerce opens new opportunities for the Northwest Indiana region, even as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online shopping trends. 

Begun prior to the onset of COVID-19, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) had already begun to look at the implications of e-commerce trends, given the region’s position on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. Little did NIRPC’s staff know at the time how relevant their work would become with the onslaught of the pandemic in the midst of the project, accelerating online shopping trends and the proliferation of deliveries. NIRPC staff quickly pivoted to include current COVID-era data and tailored the report to the reality that these super-charged trends in e-commerce would not be dissipating when the pandemic subsided. 

NIRPC’s report, “E-commerce in Northwest Indiana,” examines changing trends in the region accentuated by these new economic and travel patterns made evident during the coronavirus pandemic. Consumer trends have emerged, allowing planners to forecast land use and economic development needs.  

Slumps in brick-and-mortar retail, increases in freight traffic, and new economic opportunities are just part of data analyzed by NIRPC staff. Among the report’s findings and recommendations, NIRPC planners found a 12% decline in shopping trips in Northwest Indiana between 2008 and 2018, the closure of nearly 28% of consumer electronics stores, and growth of nearly 40% in urban freight delivery. City streets and highway traffic are particularly impacted. Transportation and warehousing make up 17.6% of the economy in Northwest Indiana – a higher percentage than Indianapolis – with warehousing and storage employment increasing 50% in just two years. After analyzing the data, planners identified areas in the Northwest Indiana region that were best suited for development for e-commerce-related business activity, based on proximity to municipalities, major highways, and other factors.  

The report offers recommendations for the region’s municipalities and businesses to allocate resources, plan land use and zoning for changing economic needs, anticipate the development of distribution facilities, and incorporate best practices to adjust to increased last-mile delivery and freight traffic.  It also offers recommendations for businesses planning to develop in Northwest Indiana as well as for existing businesses adjusting to a post-pandemic economy.   

These practical strategies include recommendations in the creation of loading zones to mitigate issues like double-parking that impedes the flow of traffic, maintaining delivery trucks safety in residential areas, and shifting toward Automated Vehicle (AV) trucks to relieve congestion.  Land use and retail recommendations suggest rezoning and rethinking for adaptive reuse, repurposing large vacant retail buildings, sensibly locating warehouses and distribution centers, incentivizing smart buildings, considering experimental retail, and redesigning large surface parking of vacant retail.  Further, the study points to next steps to develop sub-area plans that address transportation improvements and accessibility; establish redevelopment/reuse plans on the local level to provide the best possible solutions to repurpose vacant major retail; develop a regional real estate market outlook for warehouses, fulfilment centers, and logistics; and work with intermodal facilities and freight carriers to identify locations with high levels of freight movement to alleviate freight-related congestion. 

The various analyses NIRPC developed are now being made available to be adapted to other regional and local planning efforts as a means of improving planning capabilities. The report used a travel demand modeling cluster analysis that shows the congestion impacts on the transportation network of a potential newly constructed warehouse or distribution center employing 1,000 people, with clusters varying depending on which geographic site is chosen. The traffic model was based on traffic, population, employment, and land-use data to ensure that e-commerce-related facilities are suitable to other land uses in spatial relation to schools, residential areas, transportation hubs, and other uses.  

While brick-and-mortar stores are not going away – and rumors of a “retail apocalypse,” by most accounts, have been greatly exaggerated – the rapid growth of online shopping has created shifts in the way the region’s residents live, and shopping patterns will continue to change. The report acknowledges this has had a significant impact on the region’s retail sector and will have long-term implications for the way the region uses its land and highways. The pandemic has only accelerated what was already a growing trend in Northwest Indiana, and municipalities and counties within the region can use the insights from the report to make critical decisions for their communities, considering the best strategies for economic growth and quality-of-life. 

The report was approved by the NIRPC commission on November 19, 2020, and was primarily authored by NIRPC staff members Eman Ibrahim, Peter Kimball, Kevin Polette, and Scott Weber.  

NIRPC is the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Council of Governments for Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties in Northwest Indiana. Working collaboratively across the region, NIRPC coordinates regional comprehensive planning and programming for transportation, economic development, and environmental policy. 

Read the full report, “E-commerce in Northwest Indiana”: https://www.nirpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/E-Commerce-in-NWI.pdf  

Written by Tyson Warner, Executive Director of Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission   

2021 Project Achievement and Leadership Award Blog Series: A Conversation with the Honorable Oliver G. Gilbert III

For his tremendous leadership abilities and continued success working on transportation projects in the Miami-Dade area, NARC is pleased to recognize the Honorable Oliver G. Gilbert III as the recipient of the 2021 Tom Bradley Leadership Award. Chairman Gilbert has served the Miami-Dade area in a number of capacities, including as the Vice Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners and the Chair for the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), the Southeast Florida Transportation Council (SEFTC), and Vice Chair of the South Florida Regional Planning Councill. During his time at the Miami-Dade TPO, Chairman Gilbert oversaw the passage of 50 transportation planning-related resolutions during 2020 — resolutions that advanced critical projects and promoted access to multimodal transportation for residents and visitors.  

 Chairman Gilbert has been a champion of regional cooperation throughout his time working in the Miami-Dade area. Under his leadership, the SEFTC adopted the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), a collaboration between Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties that aims to provide resilient and equitable transport across southeastern Florida. This RTP will help proactively address the transportation needs of a growing region and further integrate the industries that allow local communities to thrive. To meet the crisis of the pandemic, Chairman Gilbert also oversaw the approval of a study investigating telecommuting as a means of reducing congestion and improving mobility within Miami-Dade County. The study resulted in the creation of a pilot program that aims to maximize telecommuting opportunities and recommend policies for implementation.  

To further highlight the tremendous work done throughout the Miami-Dade region, we asked Chairman Gilbert about his leadership style and the role he sees for regionalism in government — both today and in the future.   

1.) What role has regional cooperation played in your successes with the Miami-Dade TPO? 

As the second-term Chairman for both the Miami-Dade TPO Governing Board, as well as the Southeast Florida Transportation Council (SEFTC), regional cooperation has been key to the success of the Miami-Dade Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan/SMART Region. We have created SEFTC as a  forum where we engage to address regional issues and implement policy in a collaborative manner with agencies across southeast Florida.  The SEFTC is comprised of the membership from the Miami-Dade TPO, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (TPA), all within the U.S. Census designated Miami Urbanized area.  

Our region is currently collaborating on strategies for mass transit that will enable us to sustain growth and address issues of sea-level rise and housing. The goal is for long-term sustainability in the southeast Florida region, which is a key component to position Florida as a major global competitor.  

2.) What lessons have you learned about encouraging people to cooperate on important projects? 

I have learned that the public is a key partner for our regional projects to be successful. Through the development and adoption of our 2045 Regional Transportation Plan, we have ensured community engagement and strong stakeholder partnerships. The 2045 Regional Transportation Plan created one regional voice in support of a resilient and equitable transportation for the region’s residents, businesses, visitors, and economic growth. This plan identifies the most significant transportation investments needed for future growth and demand throughout the southeast Florida region. 

3.) During your time at the Miami-Dade TPO, how important has familiarity with the people in your community been in addressing issues?  

Through the transportation planning process, we are constantly engaging the public and community stakeholders, which has been key in gaining consensus to advance the region’s transportation priorities. Familiarity with the core needs of our community regarding transportation, workforce housing, economic development, education, and special needs has helped us understand the diverse views and perspectives, which in turn forms the basis of a successful planning and decision-making process.  

4.) What is something you know now that you wish you knew when you first began your career?  

I wish I knew that the box is imaginary. We hear the phrase “think outside the box”. In most instances, the box is a social norm that we created, that we use to limit our ability to change. We are limited by the laws of physics, everything else is changeable.  

5.) How has the shape and scope of regional cooperation changed throughout your career?  

Regional cooperation has evolved throughout my career from basic agreements to regional consensus and collaboration between counties and governmental agencies. Today, we function as a unified region with strong collaborative partnerships.  

6.) What traits — in both yourself and others — do you think are most important to being an effective community leader? 

I believe creativity and resilience are important traits that allow me, and others, to think outside the box to effect change and bring innovation to our region. As a community leader and Chair of the TPO Governing Board, collaboration is a key element to build a common vision and advance our transportation priorities. We always embrace different and diverse perspectives on our board, which opens us up to new possibilities and allows us to advance our priorities and work with the community. It has been critical to move forward with our Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit Plan (SMART) which has enabled to directly address the region’s mobility needs for today and the future.  

7.) What future role do you see for regionalism in government?   

Regional collaboration is important to address complex regional issues that affect millions of citizens, including transportation and mobility, safety, and economic development. There is a necessity to promote strategies that will lead to efficient, effective, and consistent regional collaboration. Given our region’s expected growth, we continued to proactively explore partnerships in transportation funding as well as working across boundaries. Through our coordinated long-range planning efforts, we have made great strides in identifying policies, transportation facilities, and services that will strengthen our region and the competitiveness of our nation on the global level.  

8.) How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way you view your work?  

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped daily life, making significant changes in how people operated. While the pandemic presented a range of challenges, it also presented opportunities to showcase resilience. The Miami-Dade TPO Governing Board is aware that we need to be at the forefront of how we address traffic and congestion in our region, and how we respond to any crisis that come our way. Telecommuting is one example of that resilience, reflected in a growing trend in many industries, to comply with social distancing guidelines.  

In mid-summer 2020, the TPO Governing Board approved a study focusing on the concept of telecommuting as part of a long-term overall strategy to reduce congestion and improve mobility in Miami-Dade County. We worked collaboratively with our partners to complete the most comprehensive study to date regarding telecommuting to understand trends and the possibility of telecommuting as a traffic mitigation strategy to “flatten the congestion curve” post-COVID-19.  

A significant outcome of the study is the advancement of a series of policy actions, including a Pilot Telecommuting Program. We have partnered with the South Florida Commuter Services to implement the program. 

9.) What impact has coordination with like-minded colleagues had on your own leadership abilities?  

Collaboration with our partners at the national, state, regional, and local levels has afforded us the opportunity to adapt to critical changes. During COVID-19, our priority was to continue providing vital, safe, seamless, and reliable travel across modes within our southeast Florida jurisdictions. In these unparalleled times we must have a sense of urgency to transition our future to be more economically and environmentally resilient. We will be successful if we can achieve this together. 

2021 Project Achievement and Leadership Award Blog Series: MORPC and ARC’s Racial Equity Conversation Series

With each new year comes the excitement of hope and promise, but for many of us, last year proved to be one of the most challenging times in our lives.  By March 2020, the world was essentially locked down because of the paralyzing effects of COVID-19. However, nothing could have prepared many of us for the events that happened on May 25 with the murder of a young Black man in Minneapolis named George Floyd.  

Leading up to the death of George Floyd were the killings of Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement and Ahmaud Arbery by vigilantes. For many of us in the Black community, these deaths had become far too common and too many to keep count of, but something changed on the day George Floyd was killed. In the hours following his death, a video captured by a 17-year-old girl chronicling the last hours of Mr. Floyd’s life ignited a social and racial justice movement that would transform not only America but would inspire protests across the world in response, demanding an end to the killings of Black people. 

For me and others, seeing Derek Chauvin — a white Minneapolis police officer who was sworn to project and serve — kneel on a black man’s neck for nine minutes and forty-six seconds, with his hand in his pocket and showing no emotion while Mr. Floyd begged for the last moments of his life, broke my heart and angered my soul. It displayed the inhumane treatment many people in my community face at the hands of law enforcement. The video of Mr. Floyd’s murder, along with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, along with the disparities exposed by COVID-19 were just too much for many of us to bear. By the summer of 2020, protests about the killings of Black people had reached a scale not seen since 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

One July afternoon, two friends, Doug Hooker of the Atlanta Regional Council and William Murdock of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Council, were sharing their observations and feelings about the civil unrest that was occurring across the nation and the world. They shared their concerns about the lack of proactive leadership in their regions in addressing the issues at hand. The two gentlemen resolved to continue the conversation and wondered if their colleagues across the region shared similar concerns. They began conversations with other leaders across the nation to gauge their level of interest in discussing racial injustice. So, what began as a conversation between two friends, evolved into a six-week conversation series on race and equity. 

To help facilitate this journey, Doug and William enlisted the help of John Hammond from ARC and myself. During our first session, we set ground rules and expectations. To participate in the full conversation series, everyone needed to commit to attending the first session. In thinking about the structure, we wanted to create a safe space for participants, one free from judgment, where individuals were empowered to be their authentic selves. Guiding principles were established to help facilitate the conversation.   

We began the series by examining race in the context of our personal journeys, leading to how race is manifested in our prospective regions, then how race is threaded throughout the planning profession, and finally, how we can be a catalyst of change in our communities to facilitate racial equity in our regions. The result of the series led to the creation of a resource guide to help continue the conversation about race and equity in our communities. 

Admittedly, when we first embarked on this conversation journey, I was uncertain of what the outcome would be because oftentimes discussions about race are uncomfortable to have, particularly among people who do not share my same experiences. But much to my surprise, there was an eagerness among leaders across the nation to discuss race, inclusion, and equity. It was so encouraging to hear leaders from all races, backgrounds, and ethnicities share their personal stories about race and to be transparent in discussing the history of their own community’s impact on today’s inequities. Even more encouraging was a willingness to share best practices and potential solutions for change.  

Since the launch of this series, we’ve been able to continue the conversation through the newly formed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work group. Through this effort, NARC was instrumental in bringing DE&I officers from various regional councils and MPO’s across the country to discuss issues of race and equity in their regions.  

We know that in order to heal as a nation and right the wrongs of our ugly past, it will be critical for us to continue these conversations to inspire change that is needed to plan for a more equitable future for everyone.  


Blog Submission:
This blog post was written and submitted by Níel Jurist, Director of Communications & Engagement at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission on behalf of MORPC and ARC. 

NARC is Hiring! Join Us as a Communications & Membership Associate

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization. NARC serves as the national voice for regions, fostering regional solutions by advocating on behalf of and providing services to its membership. 

NARC announces an opening for a Communications and Membership Associate in its Washington, DC office. The successful candidate will provide a combination of professional and administrative assistance to bring value to NARC’s members through outreach and communications. The role includes interacting with members to understand the needs of each region; distributing two weekly newsletters; developing additional member communications; connecting members to NARC staff, services, and resources; assisting with planning and executing three conferences each year; and supporting programs and grant funded projects as required.   

The successful candidate will: 

  • Hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree and have experience in communications, planning, political science, public administration, or a related field. 
  • Manage multiple projects simultaneously and work well under pressure.  
  • Set and manage priorities and deadlines for themselves and other staff members. 
  • Excel in oral and written communications and represent NARC in a professional manner. 
  • Exhibit strong organizational skills, attention to detail, and a proactive approach. 
  • Have a basic understanding of HTML and WordPress and experience with creative design tools. 

Primary duties and responsibilities: 


  • Manage NARC’s online and social media presence; utilize the website, social media, and electronic communities to market NARC programs and content to member and non-member organizations. 
  • Develop additional electronic communications, press releases, resources, research, and publications as needed. 
  • Coordinate production and distribution of two weekly newsletters.  
  • Facilitate peer-to-peer networking among the communications staff of member organizations.  

Conference Support 

  • Develop conference marketing materials in coordination with staff and host member. 
  • Coordinate conference preparation logistics including materials development and speaker needs.  
  • Manage annual awards process including marketing, project reviews, and related materials. 
  • Support conference sponsorship efforts, including developing sponsorship packets, securing sponsors, and working with sponsoring entities throughout the process. 


  • Provide support to members through a variety of approaches, including orientations, surveys, member-only events, and leadership opportunities through board and committee participation. 
  • Assist in developing new tools for communication with and between members. 
  • Develop membership recruitment materials, in coordination with other staff. 
  • Coordinate annual leadership elections process including communicating to members, coordinating delegate documents, and tracking results. 
  • Identify opportunities to provide support to members, including orientations, surveys, member-only events, and leadership opportunities through board and committee participation. Assist in developing new tools for communication with and between members. 
  • Develop membership recruitment materials, in coordination with other staff. 

This role will also provide general office support as required. 

Current Organizational Software Tools 

  • Microsoft Office Suite 
  • MailChimp 
  • WordPress 
  • Adobe Creative Suite 
  • Google Forms 
  • Naylor Association Solutions 
  • Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Analytics 

How to Apply:

Qualified applicants should send a cover letter with salary requirements, resume, and brief (1-2 page) writing sample to jobs@narc.org. Applications will be accepted until position is filled. For more information, please see www.narc.org. No calls please.


Competitive salary and full benefits package are available. Position reports to Executive Director 

NARC is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees.