By Giavonni Nickson
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson shared good news about steps being taken to help revitalize the City of Gary. As a part of the financial recovery plan, Gary is working to improve its assessed valuation by increasing revenue through business development and growth.
During the Gary Chamber of Commerce general assembly luncheon on Monday, January 14, 2019, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson shared her vision for 2019.
“This is always a signature event at the Chamber because it gives you a first-hand sneak preview of the wonderful things that are occurring in our city,” according to Chamber Executive Director Chuck Hughes.
As expected, Freeman-Wilson did provide a sneak preview on some of the topics that will be covered in greater detail during the State of The City Address on February 22, 2019, at the Genesis Center.
During the luncheon, Freeman-Wilson focused on what she called “the bread and butter of any community,” small business. Small business employs 60% of the U.S. workforce, and Gary is taking its business development seriously. “Supporting small business is a top priority for the city in 2019,” said Freeman-Wilson.
The city intends to leverage established resources while working to develop new programs.
Art House is a business incubator in the city helping emerging businesses through the Culinary Business Incubation program (CBI).
The Gary Microenterprise Initiative (GMI) helps entrepreneurs put their ideas into action within a 12-week new business development program. GMI provides fundamental training for entrepreneurs in all business industries.
An exciting new partnership with First Financial Bank is expected to provide additional opportunities for small businesses in the community through the micro business loan program.
These programs and initiatives birthed new business in the city.
Freeman-Wilson highlighted a few new businesses: Janis R. Powell State Farm Insurance, R & R Grill, Tequilas and Tacos, and All Pet Supplies. J’s Breakfast Club plans to open a second location, a sign that small businesses have room to grow in Gary.
The City of Gary confirmed over $1.5 billon in investments from business partnerships over the last six months.
While negotiations are still being finalized, US Steel confirmed a minimal commitment to invest $750 million, adding significant capital improvement throughout their enterprise starting with a focus on one plant location, their flagship location. The $750 million commitment is a massive step in the efforts for the city to grow its way out of the fiscal deficit.
Gary Chicago International Airport
The Gary Chicago international airport established a general aviation customs facility as well as additional infrastructure added to the runway area and in front of the airport. Airport Row improved with an $8 million investment. In addition to improvement at the airport, to date, there have been 18 international flights, and revenue has increased by 30% since 2015.
According to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, the city is talking to large carriers about the opportunity for cargo in and out of the airport. “We are still working to attract the right commercial provider so that citizens can fly in and out of the airport.” Wilson expressed the importance of being cautious and patient while working to establish long-lasting partnerships.
Alliance Steel, a new corporate citizen of Gary, will invest $19.7 million to move its operations from Bedford, Illinois to Gary with plans to be operational by January 2020. Alliance will bring 100 full-time jobs paying on average $31 an hour. They will purchase and equip a 250,000-square-foot facility at 2700 E. 5th Ave.
Fulcrum BioEnergy selected Gary, Indiana for the location of its Centerpoint BioFuels Plant, which will convert municipal solid waste into low-carbon, renewable transportation fuel.
With a $600 million investment, Fulcrum BioEnergy will generate hundreds of jobs in the region, creating 160 full-time operational jobs and 900 construction jobs.
The Indiana general assembly toured the Buffington Harbor site and discussed the value proposition of its development for Northwest Indiana and the state. Development plans for Buffington Harbor include relocating the Majestic Star Casino to a location near the I-80 and I-94 expressway. This anticipated move will increase the casino’s visibility and make it more accessible to the 300,000 vehicles that travel the expressway each day. According to Mayor Freeman-Wilson, this will likely increase retail and gaming opportunities in Northwest Indiana.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson encouraged the community to “Be an ambassador of good news, spread the good news,” about the transformative things happening in the City of Gary.
Before exiting the podium, Freeman-Wilson announced plans to run for a third mayoral turn stating, “I believe that when you start something, you must finish it.”