GARY | Having a main line to the White House has helped the city of Elkhart in recent years.
But Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore said it has been as important to find efficiencies in government and make the best use of federal and other resources to improve the city.
Addressing about 50 people at a Gary Chamber of Commerce meeting Monday afternoon, Moore said keeping the streets plowed, paved and safe are all part of the city's economic development strategy "so we can become an attraction to others."
"We cannot rest on our laurels," Moore said speaking at the Steel City Buffet & Grill. "We have to continue to strive to make Elkhart a better place to live."
Many workers in Northwest Indiana suffered harsh impacts from the recession. But about 85 miles east of Gary, the recession was also cruel to Elkhart and its nearly 51,000 residents. At one point, one out of every five workers in the city couldn't find work.
Elkhart later became the poster child of the economic downturn and the White House found the city fertile ground to pitch the benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other federal initiatives. Moore said the city received $40 million of direct and indirect investment as a result of stimulus funds to upgrade infrastructure and hire municipal workers. Moore said President Barack Obama continues to impress him, and he's pleased with the support the president and Vice President Joe Biden have given to the city.
The state-mandated property tax caps forced the city to find alternative ways to finance government operations, such as user fees and relying on its Grants Department. Moore said the department works with municipal agencies to identify public and private grant opportunities the city can benefit from.
When asked about what candidates for Gary's top post need to focus on in order to help the city recover, Moore said the first, second and third most important thing is jobs.
"There's an awful lot of needed redevelopment," he said about Gary after driving to Monday's event.
Moore, a 77-year-old Democrat, is seeking election in November to a second, four-year term. He said the prospect of accomplishing as much in the second term in his first term attracted him to run for the office.