Akyumen Industries Corp. acquires aging facility as part of deal that was shielded from public
By Erick Johnson
Gary’s Genesis Center, once the symbol of Black achievement under Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher, has been acquired by a cell phone manufacturing company, the Crusader has learned.
A virtual groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday, October 27, via teleconferencing platform, Zoom, to announce the facility’s acquisition by Akyumen Industries Corp., a privately held cell phone company whose headquarters is based in Los Angeles.
The Crusader learned of the deal after concerns from Genesis Center employees and event organizers led the newspaper to obtain a press release posted on Eventbrite that gave details of the deal.
Several city councilmen who spoke to the Crusader said they knew nothing about the deal. There was nothing about the deal on the Genesis Center’s website.
In response to an email from the Crusader, city spokesperson Michael Gonzalez said, “Feel free to join us tomorrow for the media event.”
As part of the deal, Akyumen will partner with the city of Gary and build a new state-of-the art manufacturing facility at the former Ivanhoe Gardens site. This facility will serve as the company’s U.S. headquarters and plant for making a new generation of 5G phones, tablets and other transformative mobile devices.
Under the agreement with Gary Mayor Jerome A. Prince, the Gary Redevelopment Commission will transfer ownership of the Ivanhoe Gardens Housing Development site to Akyumen as well as the city-owned Genesis Convention Center.
Akyumen will build a new plant that will create 500 to 2,000 jobs, as it ramps up in the areas of construction, high-tech manufacturing, and service. Design and construction on the facility and headquarters is expected to begin prior to the end of the first quarter, 2021.
“Gary is proud to begin this new partnership with Akyumen, and we believe that the community will benefit from the new jobs and a new corporate headquarters,” Prince said in a press release. “I’m excited Gary and Akyumen are teaming up to build a better future.”
Aasim Saied, Chairman and CEO of Akyumen, added, “This project will bring hundreds of jobs to the Gary community and help transform the image and narrative for positive change. We are excited to be the first company to make 5G phones and other such devices in America, and we are pleased to be working with the city’s leadership to help restore the generational pride and economic prosperity the community deserves.
“Together, Akyumen and the city of Gary will have a positive impact once we begin our manufacturing operations,” said Saied.
The announcement does not disclose the final purchase price of the deal, but there were reports that the aging Genesis Center was purchased for $1.
The Crusader first learned of the deal when Junifer Hall, chairman and CEO of the Katie Hall Educational Foundation, Inc., telephoned the newspaper saying she was concerned about whether her annual Katie Hall event would be held at the facility. Hall said a Genesis staff person told her that she wasn’t sure if that would happen because the Genesis Center had been sold.
A Gucci Mane concert was scheduled at the Genesis Center for October 3, but that event was cancelled after COVID-19 concerns, according to an email obtained by the Crusader. On the Genesis’ website, the groundbreaking event was not listed.
The Crusader then spoke to a Genesis employee who said that executives at Akyumen last week told them in a meeting that the facility is under new ownership and that they will be allowed to work at the facility until the end of December. The Crusader also learned that the announcement was originally scheduled for October 13, but not everyone was on board with the deal.
The deal came nearly a week after Prince removed two members from the five-member Genesis Convention Board of Managers.
They include chair Shanta Mack and Bishop Norman Hairston II, who told the Crusader they were removed last week after they questioned the deal and asked to clarify whether future events could be held at the Genesis Center. Mack said she asked if they wanted to disband the board altogether.
The Crusader obtained an October 22 letter from Prince where he removes Mack from the Genesis Board.
As a rule, the mayor has the authority to appoint three members to the board. Earlier this year, he removed Brian Cossey from the Genesis Board. Several councilmen who spoke to the Crusader said they were aware of the mayor’s removal of Mack and Hairston but they did not know anything about the Genesis being acquired by Akyumen.
With the new ownership, the future of the Genesis Center remains uncertain.
Opened in 1981 under Hatcher’s administration, the Genesis Center hosted numerous sporting and social events for nearly 40 years. It also hosted the funerals of Mayor Rudy Clay and most recently Hatcher’s funeral last December. The facility is currently being used for Early Voting.
With this sale, there is a concern that Gary will no longer have an important convention facility for future events.