Have you heard the news about Gary, Indiana? About what Gary is trying to do? How they are trying to get Amazon to locate and build their second headquarters here…to Gary, Indiana? Have you heard about the other cities Gary is competing against? A large number of BIG BOY cities in the country. Cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and even our state capital Indianapolis.
What does Gary bring to the table that they think they can win…that makes Gary a better choice than the others? Let’s see, Gary, Indiana sits on water. Not just any water, but Lake Michigan. Miller Beach in Gary is one of the best beaches in the country. Gary also has an airport. It’s an airport that can service commercial airlines and, that has been used by presidents and presidential candidates when they come to Northwest Indiana. Gary also has a well-developed rail system that can be used to not only get people in and out of the area, but also move materials and supplies easily as well. Northwest Indiana also has an expanding train system coming to the area in the next couple of years that will bring more value and more people to the area. Gary, and the rest of Northwest Indiana, also sit across the state line from the third largest economy in the country…Chicago.
Do the others cities have ALL of these assets in addition to a low cost of living like we do? No, they do not.
Our proximity to Chicago is a tremendous asset. We enjoy all of the amenities of Chicago, but without paying the higher cost of living expense. Add to this, Northwest Indiana has amenities of its own— restaurants, recreational activities, stores, and beautiful outdoor areas.
I almost forgot to mention the most important factor, the right people. Some say it takes people to build an area, a business, or an organization. They are partially correct. It actually takes the right people to do it. That is what we have here. We have people that are not only hungry and ready for growth, but are ready to fight to make it happen. Do you still have questions about whether or not Gary should even be competing?
Gary, and the rest of Northwest Indiana, was once an economic engine for the state. Industry…lots of industry, once located here, built up the rest of the state. Growth in other parts of Indiana came from the tax revenue originating from Northwest Indiana. I often remind my colleagues at the statehouse in Indianaplis of this. We cannot forget where we came from. People came from not only around the country, but also around the world, to live here because of the employment opportunities available allowing them to make a good living and a good life for their families.
When Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson threw Gary into the line up of applications (238 cities applied), some people asked “why?” Many of us said, “Yes!” 50,000 new Amazon employees and their families also said, “Yes!!” Unions and Construction companies that will build the new Amazon headquarters said, “Yes!!!” We can only hope that Amazon will say “Yes” for its 50,000 employees.
While it’s important to be realistic about our region’s challenges and we’re not alone in having challenges, the bottom line is if you do not think big, you will never achieve big. The Mayor understands that. She also understands that Gary SHOULD not pursue this alone – this must be a collective effort. That this initiative is about ALL of Northwest Indiana and its growth. Yes, Gary is the lead, but she has also brought together leaders from the cities of East Chicago, Hammond, Whiting, along with other Northwest Indiana organizations like the Indiana Economic Development Corp., One Region, the Northwest Indiana Forum, and the Regional Development Authority as part of a team effort. State level people are also part of the team. This win will not only benefit Gary, but all of the surrounding cities…all of the state.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has moved Gary (and the rest of Northwest Indiana) into a new arena…a national arena. At a minimum, Gary will now be known and thought of when major companies look for new homes for their business. They will know that we are confident of what we have and believe in ourselves. That they can come here and be confident it is the right choice.
I have been calling Northwest Indiana “Indiana’s Best Kept Secret.” Maybe it is time to revise that to “America’s Best Kept Secret,” but the secret is a secret no longer. Now that we have built it, now that others know about it, they will come and we need to welcome them with open arms. In welcoming newcomers, we will prosper.
Earl L. Harris, Jr.
Indiana State Representative House District 2