Consulting-firm owner Adrian Muhammad said he remains interested in working to develop transportation infrastructure in Gary despite his firm's being accused of owing more than $267,000 for a feasibility study of building an intermodal business park on land United States Steel Corp. owns.
Muhammad said the effort of his firm, Midwest International Investment Center LLC, to pursue the study was a reflection of the interest transportation entities have in the area.
He was a key economic development adviser to former Gary Mayor Rudy Clay and to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson prior to her election and in the early days of her tenure.
"Midwest wasn't borne of a transportation opportunity in Northwest Indiana," said Muhammad, a 41-year-old East Chicago native who now lives in Merrillville.
Ohio-based international consulting firm Landrum & Brown filed a lawsuit in August in U.S. District Court in Chicago alleging Muhammad's company defaulted on paying $267,110 as promised in a study of the viability of an intermodal freight port in Gary. The firm also is seeking interest on the payments and costs. Muhammad declined to comment directly about the lawsuit.
With Gary's location in the United States and its manufacturing heritage, Muhammad said transportation and logistics offers Gary a chance to rebuild its jobs base. He said the key will be creating links between existing infrastructure already in the region with the airports, port facilities, rail and highways. He said it's no accident Canadian National is investing in Kirk Yard in Gary, and some of the nation's largest trucking companies have operations in the city or in Northwest Indiana.
That is what drove his firm's interest in seeing what opportunities could develop from having an intermodal facility in the city, he said. An intermodal port is where freight is exchanged among various modes of transport, such as trucks, rail cars, ships and airplanes.
"I think there is a great opportunity to achieve this," Muhammad said.
But he said the road hasn't been easy, especially since he has been looking at enhancing transportation assets in the city since 2007, Muhammad said.
Building jobs in an area that has seen a progressive decline in good paying, "strong union" jobs in the last few decades will take leadership, he said. He said the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has been wonderful at providing leadership in economic development in the region and Freeman-Wilson has brought stability to the city. But any business opportunity on the scale he believes is possible will require resources larger than those available from the government or himself.