Gary development pitfalls cited

2011-09-28T17:00:00Z Gary development pitfalls citedBy Rob Earnshaw Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 28, 2011 5:00 pm  • 

GARY | A task force created by Democratic mayoral candidate Karen Freeman-Wilson to address major issues facing the city presented its mid-term report Wednesday at Indiana University Northwest.

Gary New Day Task Force is something Freeman-Wilson believes will benefit the entire community, regardless of who wins the Nov. 8 election.

"We are very excited about the number of their recommendations," said Freeman, who is running against Republican Charles Smith Jr. and independent candidates Lavetta Sparks-Wade and Eddie Tarver.

"Some of their findings quite frankly have been sobering, particularly from the budget and finance perspective. But my position is unless you know, you cannot plan."

The task force is comprised of leaders throughout the region who have been meeting, researching and gathering information from experts and residents to formulate their reports.

Eric Reaves, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said they discovered if a contractor or developer wanted to do business in Gary, the process involved included going through 13 different city departments and filling out a lengthy questionnaire, "which is just crazy."

"We don't think that system is good for economic development," he said. "Commercial or industrial business -- when they go to any city they want the city to be ready to receive them."

Reaves said his committee looked at different models across the country, including Valparaiso's and Portage's. Reaves said they've scheduled meetings with the mayors of both of those cities to get a closer look at their economic models.

Reaves said they also found out there is no communication within Gary's city departments.

"It makes the process very cumbersome," he said.

Debra Carrington, of the Arts and Culture Committee, said they're hoping to bring "together the arts and culture activities in the city of Gary."

"Hopefully (in Gary) we can build a plan that will have an umbrella organization where everyone can prosper and everyone can get funding from," she said.

Co-chair and Gary film chief Ben Clement sees an arts and culture department as an economic and developer driver. He noted a lot of film companies that have used Gary in their productions and need resources the city cannot offer.

"Unfortunately a lot of those vendors are not based in Gary," he said.

Clement said it's an opportunity for Gary to establish such resources.

Dr. Chantal Walker, chair of the Health and Social Services Committee, said they found a need for youth and senior services but a limited number of resources.

She said they recommend a collaboration with Indiana University Northwest for a student learning project that addresses residents' needs.

Her co-chair, Dr. Michael McGee, has a wish list that's "very grandiose" -- the need for a trauma center and a teaching hospital.

McGee also said there is a need for a pediatric intensive care unit that can be built in an existing structure "hopefully at Methodist here in Gary."

"Whatever it takes -- grass-roots efforts or getting area businesses involved to bring the money into the area is important," McGee said.

Freeman-Wilson said there will be a final report in written form  allowing presentation to the public.

"This is just the beginning," she said.

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