Dear readers, meet a gentleman of the finest quality. A well-dressed family man with old-fashioned manners and a penchant for suits and historical building, Bert Cook is this week’s La Porte County Life in the Spotlight.
Cook was born in Valparaiso and raised in Portage, IN. He attended Crisman Elementary, Willowcreek Middle School, and then Portage High School. After graduation he went to Purdue West Lafayette for three years and then returned to finish his degree in Business Management at Purdue North Central. Along with the Business Management major, Cook minored in Economics and Finance.
After college, Cook heard about a job in La Porte in economic development that was open.
“It’s not something that I thought I would get into,” Cook said. “It’s not very common. There are only maybe 15 of us in the state. But a job for a Project Manager opened up and I took a chance. I got an interview and thought I might like to get into it.”
So, Cook became the Executive Director for the Greater La Porte Economic Development Corporation (GLEDC). GLEDC was created in 2001 as a place for business to go for assistance in the development process. The services that they provide include: incentive information and efforts, retention and expansion efforts that connect with the Chamber of Commerce, marketing and promotion efforts, contact for SBA 504 programs and the La Porte County Revolving Loan, project coordination and much more. The services that GLEDC provides are free. The main goal for them is to see La Porte successfully grow.
After six years as a Project Manager, Cook was promoted to Retention and Expansion Coordinator. A year later he took a job at the Portage Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO) as the Executive Director. Now La Porte has gotten Cook back as the Executive Director of GLEDC. As the Executive Director, Cook must run the organization, run the day-to-day operations, as well as some human resource dealings.
“We’re a three-person consulting group,” Cook said. “You could say I’m a consultant to the city of La Porte in their economic efforts. So that means trying to attract new business to the area and to retain or expanding the existing business space. The people that are involved and that I get to work with is the best part of what I do. I have many experiences with a wide variety of people and most of those people I would have never met had I not had this job. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know people and development network and to truly help companies be successful in our area.”
Cook is one of those guys that gets up in the morning and is excited to go to work. He said he felt very lucky to have such an impactful role in the evolving La Porte County. In the future, Cook hopes to see the projects that he’s worked diligently on, such as the Thomas Rose Industrial Park, come to fruition. He can’t wait for the day that the first buildings go up in the park. And another redevelopment project in La Porte, Newport Landing, has been in the works for quite a few years. He’d like to see things happening with that very soon and he says that it is very likely.
“I think La Porte County is an underutilized asset at the moment. We have a lot to offer,” Cook stated. “For a long time I think that the community was content with the way that it was built. And it seems like in the last few years that has changed. People are looking for a little more. Because of that we’ve seen a pretty strong amount of growth so far and I think it’s going to continue. We’ve got a wonderful Mayor who is just a joy to work with and she’s done so much in her administration so far and it’s only been a little over a year. That gives me a lot of hope.”
Cook lives with his wife and brand new baby girl in the city of La Porte. In his free time he digs golfing, softball, and any outdoors activity.
When asked about future personal goals, Cook replied, “Personally, I’m pretty happy where I am now. If I can maintain the status quo I’d be pretty happy about that.”
So, seeing as how Cook is pretty content and satisfied with the way things are going in his life, how would he advise others to seek and find such contentment as it is hard to achieve?
“The biggest thing that I notice on a regular basis is that people, especially the younger generation, come out of college or high school and believe that when they get a job they’ll immediately become the CEO and they’re going to make a lot of money,” Cook said. “But there’s no substitute for hard work and climbing the corporate ladder. You have to start from the bottom and work your way up. Complaining about it does no good. Find opportunities to better yourself and to better your professional skills, your education, and your credentials because employers notice that.”
He speaks the truth. Having things handed to you won’t give you the experience or satisfaction of a job well done. Here’s a man who has and stands by his old fashioned, tried and true morals and values. You are a gentleman and a scholar, Bert Cook, and that’s why you’re a La Porte County Life in the Spotlight.