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Regional learning needed for Gary development, mayor says

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Economic development in the city of Gary – in part – is going to occur with an eye on what it can learn from other cities in the Chicago region, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Wednesday.

At an annual meeting for the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council, Freeman-Wilson said the city's economic development strategy included responsible lakefront development, transportation improvements, and continued support for jobs in education and the medical field.

The mayor also committed to join a three-state partnership headlined by the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee to help boost the economic competitiveness of the region. Since the cities share Lake Michigan and transportation connections, she said it makes sense for them to work together.

"We have to look at what's going on in other cities and other states and how we may use that to our advantage," Freeman-Wilson said.

Freeman-Wilson said she's hopeful for progress with "meds and eds," or medical and educational institutions, in hopes of improving the city. The city pledged to provide $15 million in incentives to Fishers, Ind.-based Positron Corp., which makes radioactive medical imaging isotopes, if it could receive financing to build a cyclotron facility. She said there also is potential to have a teaching hospital built in the city, with Indiana University Northwest School of Medicine and potentially Methodist Hospitals as a partner.

One challenge, Freeman-Wilson said, in improving Gary is restoring the hope of people in the city and the region. She said in order to make Gary a viable community, it has to convince people that the city is worth investing in.

The lakefront is a center of investment opportunities because there is potential for additional industrial development as well as improving recreation, Freeman-Wilson said.

The city also has to better leverage its standing as a transportation hub with its airport, trucking terminals, and proximity to interstate highways and a port, Freeman-Wilson said. She told the audience the Gary/Chicago International Airport can be a viable home for more commercial service after its expansion project is completed by December 2013. 

"We have not historically taken advantage of (those) accumulated assets," Freeman-Wilson said.


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