Lake County IN Economic Alliance President Karen Lauerman brought many new businesses, countless jobs and multimillion-dollar investments to the Region over the course of her career.

Lauerman, who previously led economic development efforts at the Northwest Indiana Forum in Portage, died abruptly Tuesday after an illness.

She was remembered as one of Northwest Indiana's biggest cheerleaders and a driving force in economic development who brought billions of dollars in investment to the Calumet Region through her tireless advocacy and dealmaking prowess.

"Northwest Indiana will surely miss Karen Lauerman. She was a great advocate and staunch believer that Northwest Indiana is the best place for business," Northwest Indiana Forum President and CEO Heather Ennis said.

"Her dedication to our region even during her illness was unparalleled. She fought hard to put Northwest Indiana on the map. Her time here at the Forum and the Lake County IN Economic Alliance have made Northwest Indiana a better place. Her legacy will continue to live on in the progress of our region."

Ennis knew Lauerman when Lauerman was at the private economic development agency serving the seven-county Northwest Indiana region and Ennis was president of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce.

"I certainly wouldn't be in my position if not for my relationship with her," Ennis said. "She'd want to be remembered for her optimistic attitude. She was ill but did not give up the fight to return to health, which seemed to be right around the corner, and continued to feel compassionate about Lake County and the work she was doing. She was an optimist."

Lauerman was one of Northwest Indiana's biggest advocates, Center of Workforce Innovations President and CEO Lisa Daugherty said.

"I have worked with Karen in various capacities throughout my career and always found her to be one of the biggest champions for Northwest Indiana residents and employers," she said. "Her commitment to attracting employers and ultimately jobs was apparent.

"And what I always appreciated about Karen was her frankness. Karen never hesitated to tell you where, when or how something you were doing could be improved a bit. She understood the big picture and worked to leverage partnerships. I will miss working with her."

She helped form the Lake County Economic Alliance with its vice president of economic development, Don Koliboski, in 2014. They helped bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of capital to the Region, Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ryan said.

"Karen was not only a strong leader in economic development, but she also possessed a warm smile, along with a heart of gold, and touched the lives of so many people," Ryan said. "Our hearts and prayers are with her husband, Scott, and the Lauerman family during these difficult times."

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Lauerman would be missed deeply in the Region: "She was a champion of progress and economic development for Lake County, as well as a wonderful person, and our hearts go out to her family."

Lauerman was a tireless worker who got things done, Hammond Economic Development Director Anne Anderson said.

"Karen was the epitome of 'if you need something done, ask a busy woman.' She was warm and driven and helped many projects in Hammond cross the finish line," Anderson said. "The Region has lost a great cheerleader. We will miss her very much."

Linda Woloshansky, the previous president and CEO of the Center of Workforce Innovations, said Lauerman continued to work to bring businesses to Northwest Indiana despite her illness.

"She kept up with her schedule, waking up at 6 a.m.," she said. "She was doing her thing despite being so very ill. She tried not to drop the ball. She was a warrior and cheerleader for Northwest Indiana. She was a force to be reckoned with and so dedicated to the work she did. She was incredibly passionate."

Lauerman would work to ensure that companies would go somewhere in Northwest Indiana even if they were determined to relocate or if there were no sites they liked in Lake County, Woloshansky said. She worked closely with other economic development groups and other stakeholders.

"She brought in so many different companies," Woloshansky said. "There was all this activity going on. Every month new companies were coming into Lake County. Karen's efforts were really significant."

Hasse Construction President William Hasse, whom Lauerman asked to serve on the LCEA board eight years ago, said Lauerman recently arranged for him to speak at a commercial construction conference in Oak Brook to talk about all the activity going on in Northwest Indiana.

"She was a small woman who had a big impact," Hasse said. "She was strong, compassionate and hardworking to the end of her career."

Lauerman was responsible for many high-profile projects, including the Digital Crossroads data center at the former State Road Generating Plant site on the Lake Michigan lakefront in Hammond, said Randy Palmateer, business manager of IBEW Local 697 and the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

She also helped bring the billion dollars of projects under construction at the AmeriPlex at the Crossroads business park in Merrillville.

"She was a good friend to labor and a huge advocate of the working-class men and women in the construction industry in Northwest Indiana," Palmateer said. "Buildings all up and down Broadway that took tons of skilled trades labor are the result of her hard work. She created tons of jobs for the Region."

She had greater relationships with unions, developers, utilities, politicians and everyone who needed to get projects done, he said.

"She had a great work ethic and worked day and night," Palmateer said. "She was always working to make Northwest Indiana a better place."

Lauerman worked the room at many business functions around the Region and headed down to Indianapolis to lobby at the Statehouse for issues of local concern.

"She worked hard on these things. She was a perfectionist and a pro," Palmateer said. "The impact she had was tremendous. I'm still kind of shocked. I knew she was sick, but she was still at work every day. She was the Energizer Bunny. She was a good person, good-hearted and very good at what she did."
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