Crusader Staff Report
The contributions of Gary’s small business sector were highlighted during Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s State of the City address on Feb. 23 at the Genesis Convention Center.
For the second time in four years, Freeman-Wilson chose to deliver her speech from a stage positioned in the center of the room, and though she alluded to a number of projects the city has embarked on, she also used the occasion to spotlight the small business community.
From the introduction of Freeman-Wilson by Joselyn Kelly, owner of the Breakfast Club in Glen Park, to desserts served during the luncheon, local businesses and their products were on display.
During the program, the mayor departed from her prepared remarks to allow four local business owners to make presentations.
“Today, we are celebrating small business, and I’m so excited because we are going to hear from four small business owners in the city of Gary who are really doing well as business people, right here in Gary,” said Freeman-Wilson.
Singled out for recognition were Lee Companies Construction, Get it Done Landscape and G.R.I.N.D.
Located in Gary for 45 years, Lee Companies Construction has been involved in construction projects dating back to the Hatcher administration.
“I’ve worked with every administration since the Hatcher days, and this administration is absolutely fundamental to why I am so excited about the prospects for our city today. My business and the growth of the city requires an effective development team and we currently have one of the most effective development teams I have ever worked with in this town or any other town,” said Pat Lee, owner of Lee Companies Construction.
“In our city, we have some of the best carpenters, real estate agents and the best of anything you could ever think of right here in the city of Gary.
“At the G.R.I.N.D. House, we help convicted felons make the transition back into society and to create new lanes not just for themselves, but also for others to follow,” said Krishna Dobbs.
Bernard Hawkins was incarcerated at one point in his life. While he was in jail, his mother died of cancer. Before she died, she asked him to promise her two things. “That I would make a difference while I was in prison and when I get out that I would work to find a way not to go back,” said Hawkins.
In fulfilling his promise to his mother, Hawkins enrolled in a program offered by the Urban League of Northwest Indiana called Gary 4 Jobs. Althrough he was the last one to enroll in the program, he graduated first in his class and established, “Get It Done Landscape.” Recently, Hawkins applied for a building contractor’s license because he has decided to go into the construction field.
Gary Redevelopment Director Joe Van Dyk followed the speakers and provided a brief overview of the city’s comprehensive plan. Van Dyk added that business and community input will be sought in helping to implement the plan.
“There will be new business announcements; we have two new FBOs that are investing their own money at the Gary Airport. The Gary Jet Center, they [sic] are investing their money, and you don’t invest your money if you think something is not going to grow or isn’t already growing. Those plans are useless unless we have the finances to back them up,” Freeman-Wilson said.
She added that as challenging as the city’s finances are, Gary has been doing great things. The mayor cautioned that “until we address that challenge, we will continue to face these challenges, and the way to fix it is by increasing revenue, and the other way is to come up with a sustained way to live within our means.”
Freeman-Wilson said her administration will work with a couple of groups to address the city’s finances and other administrative problems.