People make Portage the place to live, do business

2011-03-06T00:00:00Z People make Portage the place to live, do businessBy Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Covering the walls of Mike Lovings business are sponsorship plaques of Little League baseball, Junior Miss softball and Portage Youth Basketball teams, among others.

Across from the plaques are a Portage High School poster and a pennant.

Lovings, 57, says he's a sports fan, but he's also an avid fan of the city he adopted as home more than 30 years ago.

"It is a nice close-knit town. It's a steel mill town," said Lovings who moved to Portage in 1978.

He was a steelworker then, and he and his new family were looking for "good affordable housing," the same thing that continues to bring families to the city three decades later.

Lovings eventually went back to school and opened Lovings Heating and Cooling in 1981, just down Hamstrom Road from where he is located now.

"There is a great attitude here as far as the community goes. Here, it is not hard to find a good friend," said Lovings, who has watched the city grow over the last three decades, where he not only operated his business, but has coached and sponsored youth sports for 26 years, has been involved in the Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce and helped establish its Business Opportunity Night eight years ago.

He and his wife, Della, also run a beanbag league at the local American Legion post.

"If you don't give back, you can't expect anything," said Lovings, whose mantra is to "treat people like you want to be treated."

Lovings said for the most part he's happy with the way the city has evolved.

His one wish, that the downtown project moves forward, will come closer to reality this year. A contract was awarded earlier this year for construction of a 32,000-square-foot Portage Learning Center on Central Avenue just west of his business.

City officials are hoping the learning center will spur more development in the downtown project.

In addition to the new building, Lovings and his fellow Portage residents will see infrastructure projects continue this year. The $10 million Stone Avenue storm water project begun in 2010 will be completed this year.

The project on Airport Road at Portage High School will also be completed in 2011.

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