Portage is a city that is established, presenting tried-and-true opportunities for businesses, but it is also a city on the move, growing in substantial ways that help to bring new prospects for businesses looking to lay down a foundation.
Gregg Sobkowski, past president of the Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce, says, “There are a lot of reasons why Portage is a great city to do business in. Its proximity to the lake is attractive, the major transportation hug wth the Port, rail, the highways. Portage is the city with the largest population in all of Porter County so that is attractive to businesses and we continue to be a growing community. There is still land available for developing.”
One business that has called Portage home for years now and has recently invested even more in its business and the community is The Estate. Shannon Burhans, owner of The Estate explains, “Originally the building we’re in was built in the 1970s and used to be a house. There was a chiropractor in here for many years before we bought it and it was in horrible shape. In the beginning we just did an internal remodel and some Band-Aid fixes outside. There used to be a glass atrium on the outside and it was in bad shape so we tore it off since no one could fix it. We moved in in 2007 and it was always our intent to fix it, but we got busy and put it off.”
Just this past October, Burhans says that they underwent a major renovation, outside as well as inside. “We did a full remodel. There used to be siding and it all came off. There is an overhang now which adds an entryway, new columns outside, and inside, all of the old doors came out and we installed new commercial windows. It was a fairly substantial project and now it looks like a commercial building instead of a house. We’d like to do a little more, including some additional landscaping soon. But the result has been wonderful. The customers have definitely noticed. This is our permanent home and we will continue to update the appeal for the city,” she says.
The investment in their business has been an investment in Portage, and Burhans says they worked with the city to make it happen. “It’s a breath of fresh air for Willowcreek. We had intended to do it earlier but we got really busy and ran into a few glitches with our vision and city ordinances, so it got pushed off for a year, but then we talked to our city planner A.J. Monroe he was great. He worked with us and talked to us about what we could do that fit in with the city code so we didn’t hit any snags and that worked better,” says Burhans.
Another business that has also invested in Portage is a new business, Porter Pool and Spa Supply, and Frank Farkas says that the city is a great place to call home. “The store just opened March 1st at 6487 Melton Rd. Unit B in Portage. People have been very receptive and the traffic on U.S. 20 is doing it justice,” Farkas says.
Farkas owned the building which houses his business next door, Portage Electric Supply Corporation, so Porter Pool and Spa Supply, was opened by Owner Paul Farkas who has been in the pool and spa business for 22 years. “It is a full service pool sales store with new pools, chemicals, and all the accessories. We do liner replacement, service to existing pools and pumps, and the spa side offers accessories and as the pool season winds down we will get more into the spa side. We do plenty of pool installations and service,” says Farkas.
Another new business, Texas Roadhouse, opened in Portage at 6130 E US Highway 6 on December 17th and Managing Partner Doug Giltrop says Portage is a great place to call home. “Texas Roadhouse is a corporate chain restaurant out of Louisville, Kentucky. We thought Portage was a nice city and looked at it and its demographics, and it matched up to the Texas Roadhouse needs. Business opened up strong and overall we’ve been really happy,” he says. Texas Roadhouse first opened in 1993 in Clarksville, Ind. and they offer hand-cut steaks, fall-off-the-bone ribs, made-from-scratch sides, and fresh-baked bread. They provide larger portions so customers get more food for their dollar.
Sidebar on Housing
Call Portage Home!
Portage is the largest city in Porter County and the third largest in Northwest Indiana. In fact, 36,828 people call Portage home, according to the 2010 census. Robin Wilkening, broker associate with Remax Affiliates, says that the reason why Portage is so popular is obvious—because Portage is a great place to call home, and the numbers are on the rise.
“Portage people are very friendly, very welcoming. It’s a new community that has been around since 1968 so we don’t have a lot of the historic value, which means we’re still growing. Our people are our biggest attraction, but we have our proximity as well, to the expressways, the toll road, the Port, the South Shore—it gives us an advantage for people traveling into Chicago or other places so you don’t have to depend on a car to get into the city. And of course the lake is a big advantage, especially with our Marina which is very busy. There’s always a waiting list for all of the slips. Lakefront and Riverwalk Park really put us on the map. And of course we have the trail system which is unique to our community—we have two trails in our city, and a third coming soon, so people can go from county to county and city to city without a car,” she says.
While many communities in the country experienced a housing crash, Wilkening says that is not the case in Portage. Wilkening explais, “Everything changed in about 2006 or 2007 when the economy took a tank and it affected people financially in this area. People lost their jobs and couldn’t afford their mortgages, and there were a lot of foreclosures and restrictions on loans, but now the government has released those restrictions and the market is taking a little bit of a turn. We’re busier now in the winter than we have been in quite a few years. We never had the bubble and so we never had the crash that places like Florida and Las Vegas had, but prices are creeping back up so we are trending toward a sellers’ market and a buyers’ market now. Plus, when Meijers opens in June, that will be a big key as to what is going on. They’re very community minded and they’re already out in the community working with too. But our housing is more affordable than other communities with our low taxes. People come over from Lake County because its affordable to live here.”