The selection of Gary for the Obama administration's Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative is a sign of the new era of collaboration nationally and locally.
With the designation comes a flood of assistance for the city. Usually that means dollars, but this time it's even better than that.
A team of experts, including representatives from a variety of federal agencies, will work with the city on revitalization efforts for at least two years.
When Evan Bayh was a U.S. senator, he spoke of this happening in Gary. Now the time has finally come.
There will be significant federal investment, to be sure. Strong Cities, Strong Communities teams in the original cities have helped earmark a total of $368 million in existing federal funds for those cities.
This is not just a federal effort, however. The federal teams will work with the city administration, local nonprofits, private businesses, philanthropic foundations, community organizations and others to more effectively invest in appropriate solutions.
This is, on a much larger scale, what the Legacy Foundation's Neighborhood Spotlight Initiative hopes to accomplish. That foundation is planning to focus resources for maximum effort in two "neighborhoods" — an intentionally nebulous geographic term — for a more holistic approach.
The resources include not just the foundation's own money but also funding from other sources.
Even more important, the Legacy Foundation is teaching interested community organizations and leaders how to apply for these funds, and how to work together for this holistic approach.
In both the federal Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative and the Neighborhoods Spotlight Initiative, the emphasis should be on collaboration and pouring enough resources into a community to make a real difference, to transform, and not just to address one aspect of a much larger situation.
There has been a lot of federal money poured into Gary over the years. This time, make it a coordinated effort that produces real results and provides the momentum the city needs to create a brighter future.