By Giavonni Nickson
In a press conference held February 19 at Gary’s City Hall, Spectacle Entertainment officials reaffirmed their commitment to support a local development agreement amended in 2019 between the City of Gary and Spectacle Entertainment. The local development agreement outlines Gary’s and Spectacle’s mutual rights and obligations on employment, organized labor, local and diverse purchasing, financial and reporting requirements, and general accountability.
Spectacle Entertainment and Hard Rock International, the TN Ward Company and subcontractors, Northwest Indiana Building Trades Council, the Indiana Plan for Equal Employment, and the City of Gary agreed to ensure the employment of local union tradespeople for the Hard Rock Casino in Gary construction project.
In an effort led by Mayor Jerome Prince, the hiring and job development entities recently met to collaborate on the best strategy for identifying, developing, and engaging workers who live in the city of Gary. With the Hard Rock Northern Indiana project underway, all parties are fine-tuning efforts to immediate and long term union employment opportunities for local union tradespeople, including a community outreach path through the Indiana Plan’s Construction Awareness Pre-Apprenticeship Program.
The Indiana Plan is a pre-apprenticeship training program sponsored by the Indiana State Building Trades. The mission of the Indiana Plan is to provide basic construction awareness training to minorities and women in an effort to increase the percentages of minorities and women working in the construction industry.
At Majestic, 33 percent of employees are from Gary and 75 percent are minorities. As construction develops, plans for hiring upwards of 600 hospitality and service jobs will commence.
NWI Area Director for the Indiana Plan for Equal Employment, Roman Bronson, expects the hiring advancement to have a life-changing impact on residents.
“I am also a construction trade journeyman and have been involved for 13 years. I know firsthand how much these opportunities can change not just the life of an individual, but also an individual’s family. I am a walking example of that,” said Bronson.
Bronson said the Indiana Plan is primarily for those who are not affiliated with any union, and not typically exposed to the industry.
The two-week-long class occurs quarterly with the next class starting in May, but based upon the casino project’s construction timeline, Bronson said additional classes will be opening as needed.
Their current class size is approximately 15-20 students from far South Lake County, Porter County, and other sections of Northwest Indiana. Bronson is looking to community partners to help extend the program’s reach and bring more Gary residents into the fold.
Mayor Prince said the city will shoulder the responsibility of sharing the job opportunity with residents to increase participation.
“We’re working presently to develop a direct pipeline of information so that we can disseminate it to our residents and funnel them to the Indiana Plan,” said Prince. “These efforts will extend for not only this project, but far into the future because it’s our intention to get Gary residents employed on any project in Gary and so to that extent, the city will be extremely and actively engaged.”
The construction timeline is aggressive with plans to be completed by the end of 2020.
Dewey Pearman, executive director at the Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana said some Gary residents have already gone through the Indiana Plan and are immediately available for the casino construction project.
Spectacle Vice President of Development Rich Ziegler said the project development is off to a good start with the help of what has so far been mild winter weather.
“We have more than three-quarters of the foundation done and steel should start going up this week, so we’re progressing quite well I think in terms of an opening date. We are still targeting trying to get to the end of the year. We’ll be in a better position to set that date, sometime this summer, once the building shell is completed.”
So far the demolition contract was awarded to a local contractor that is 100 percent Minority Business Enterprise (MBE).
The steelwork that is about to start will be done by Midwestern Steel whose director is an MBE firm that makes the contract 25 percent MBE. Midwestern Steel has a team of 25 in their shop of which three are Gary residents and eight are minority group members.
The perimeter fence is also being completed by an MBE contractor.
“Spectacle plans to ensure employment opportunities for local residents, as well as local contractors, will be met. We will work very closely with the building trades, the contractors, Spectacle, and Indiana Plan to make sure that everybody has an equal opportunity to realize the benefits of this project,” said Pearman.
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.