The Crusader Newspaper Group

Second Buffington Harbor tour gives area hope

Crusader Staff Report

After a successful tour of Gary’s Buffington Harbor this summer, the city’s political and business leaders made a second visit to the area on September 26 as part of an effort to raise awareness of the area’s potential.

The Buffington Harbor area includes the Gary/Chicago International Airport, Majestic Star Casinos and Hotel, and several restaurants.

The tour began at the Gary/Chicago International Airport, then guests were taken to the Majestic Star Casinos & Hotel. Guests also toured Marquette Park, Gary’s picturesque park.

The tour was conducted for Indiana House of Representatives members and their staffs, more than one month after a similar tour was given to the state senate members, many of whom are Republicans who have never visited the Buffington Harbor area. Management from Majestic Star Casinos & Hotel and officials from U.S. Steel’s Gary Works also participated in the tour.

Last month, U.S. Steel announced that it will invest $750 million to revitalize its flagship Gary plant to accommodate for increased demand in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel. U.S. Steel said it will make “significant upgrades” to increase efficiencies at the plant, which remains its largest with 3,800 workers.

Gary’s economic development director told the Gary Port Authority that Indiana legislators from the first tour “came away impressed with what they saw, and that they didn’t really realize what was here.”

Kemp said he believes those legislators returned to Indianapolis with a more favorable vision of what Gary can offer to Indiana. Kemp also said he hopes the tour to Buffington Harbor will give Indiana House members a positive image of Gary.

Kenneth Stalling, Port Authority Board Chairman, said getting support from the Indiana General Assembly is a significant step towards turning Buffington Harbor into a thriving shipping port.

Kemp said House members were scheduled to visit the top of the Majestic Star Casino & Hotel, where they could see how close together the facility is in proximity to the airport and other assets.

Over the years, Buffington Harbor has struggled to attract visitors to the area.  Before he was president, in 1993,

Donald Trump wooed city officials in his bid to dock a showboat casino along Lake Michigan in Buffington Harbor. Trump promised to build a floating Shangri-La with enough blackjack tables that would generate tens of millions each year and well-paying jobs for minorities. That never happened, and the experience left scars among members of Gary’s business community.

But the recent tours have left Kemp optimistic about Buffington Harbor’s future.

“We’re talking about an area that’s only a mile or so square,” he said. It’s really a wonderful asset that Gary can use to its (economic) benefit.”

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