Some 200 regional, national leaders gather at Gary’s Genesis Center to develop strategy for economic recovery
(Gary, Ind.) … To kick off a multiyear initiative to reinvest in Gary and Northwest Indiana’s urban communities, more than 200 community leaders, local elected officials, regional stakeholders, national development experts, and federal representatives from the White House and U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development gathered in Gary today for the GRIP the Future event.
Both the participants and the roster of dynamic speakers provided valuable input to shape the Gary and Region Investment Project’s (GRIP) strategy, which will focus on a few key investments that can begin to transform Gary and the region. At the end of the day-long event, hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and The Times Media Co., participants voted on investment selection criteria as well as specific developments they believe would have the greatest impact.
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, U.S. Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Gary Mayor Rudy Clay attended and welcomed participants to GRIP the Future. U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) welcomed participants via videotaped remarks.
“As we confront today’s economic crisis, never before has the need for unity or a grand vision of what we hope to achieve for the urban core of Northwest Indiana been greater,” said U.S. Rep. Visclosky. “Thankfully, this region has already proven that we can undertake and achieve success in regional plans through efforts like the Marquette Plan. Through this plan – and under the leadership of several generations of community leaders – the cities of Whiting, Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, and Portage, have worked toward the common vision of bringing new jobs and development to our communities while protecting and enhancing one of the nation’s greatest natural resources, Lake Michigan. I believe that Northwest Indiana’s best days still lie ahead of us, and I look forward to working with local leaders to ensure new economic opportunities for the region.”
“For many years, I have worked closely on a variety of issues of importance to Gary and to the Region,” said U.S. Sen. Lugar. “However, we have a lot more work to do. There are many assets in the Region that can be expanded upon to create jobs and economic investment. I believe that your efforts and strong bipartisan leadership at all levels of government are required.”
“Gary has many strong assets, including bright, young minds, strong institutions, and transportation infrastructure, including the Gary/Chicago International Airport. We have begun to lay a new foundation for economic growth through property tax reform, crime reduction, and lakefront redevelopment, and by demolishing derelict properties to make way for new homes and job opportunities,” said Gary Mayor Rudy Clay. “But Gary cannot do it alone. We need the region and nation’s support to move forward on key redevelopment opportunities that will benefit not only Gary, but all of Northwest Indiana.”
After the welcoming remarks, MarySue Barrett, MPC president, moderated a panel discussion about the federal government’s role in supporting urban development. The three panelists were HUD Deputy Secretary Sims; Derek Douglas, special assistant to the President for urban affairs (via video link); and Radhika Fox, federal policy director, PolicyLink. They noted that, through new initiatives such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the federal government is prioritizing investments in existing communities with solid plans to ensure funding achieves multiple benefits.
“HUD is investing in Gary’s future because we are convinced that with innovative, creative thinking, collaborative partnerships, and a new regional approach, the city can recover from this spiral of industrial decline and disinvestment,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Sims. “We have seen physical regeneration accompanied by economic recovery in cities like Akron, the former rubber capital of the world, and Toledo, a city that once specialized in building windows and windshields for cars. If these cities can reinvent themselves, in time, Gary, can do the same.”
The second panel discussion, moderated by Don Babcock, director of economic development, NIPSCO, focused on regional momentum toward economic recovery. Bill Masterson, publisher, The Times Media Co.; U.S. Rep. Visclosky; Steve Strains, deputy director, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission; and Bill Hanna, executive director, Regional Development Authority, noted that consensus is building about the need to reinvest in Northwest Indiana’s urban core.
“Northwest Indiana’s economic well being depends on every city and community in the region, including Gary,” said Babcock. “As a unified region, we will attract investors and other reputable private sector partners, play a stronger role in advocating for our region at the state and federal levels, and perhaps even become a national model for economic recovery.”
“The Gary and Region Investment Project will develop a shared vision to set us all on the same path toward economic revitalization,” said Masterson. “Success depends on our ability to build bridges – across municipal borders, between the public and private sectors, with the state and federal government and even with our counterparts in greater metropolitan Chicago.”
After lunch, Peter Skosey, vice president, Metropolitan Planning Council, moderated a panel discussion among leading national experts who have played a role in redeveloping other formerly industrialized cities across the nation. Panelists were Ed Paesel, executive director, South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association; Sandra Moore, president, Urban Strategies, which supports comprehensive development in communities around the country; and Kim Burnett, consultant, non-resident senior fellow, The Brookings Institution, and formerly with the Surdna Foundation. The group detailed strategies and tactics that have proven successful in communities grappling with similar challenges as Gary and Northwest Indiana’s urban core.
During two discussions at their tables, participants reviewed a list of development opportunities that could stabilize and improve Gary and Northwest Indiana’s economy. They rated both criteria for selecting the best investments as well as the investments themselves. Participants agreed that the best strategy would focus limited resources on projects that rise to the top.
“Success will require a new framework for investment. Rather than spreading scarce resources around, the Gary and Region Investment Project will provide a laser-like focus on reinvesting in specific areas that will create jobs, make the region more attractive to businesses, improve mobility — and generate a ripple effect that strengthens surrounding neighborhoods and communities,” said Barrett.
Next steps for GRIP
After working with local and regional partners to narrow down the list of priority investments, the GRIP team will enlist the Urban Land Institute-Chicago – the local district council of an international organization that brings together a variety of stakeholders to find solutions and build consensus around land use and development challenges – to engage real estate and planning professionals to provide expert advice on advancing priority projects. MPC also will provide policy analysis and advocacy at the regional, state and federal levels to help attract new resources and remove barriers to reinvestment.
Background on GRIP
The Gary and Region Investment Project, GRIP, is a multiyear initiative to reverse decades of disinvestment, urban decay, and dwindling resources by focusing redevelopment efforts within Gary and other communities in Northwest Indiana’s distressed urban core. GRIP’s strategy is to identify and work together on a few key transformative projects to move Northwest Indiana forward. GRIP’s targeted outcomes are to engage key regional stakeholders; build upon lessons learned in other Rust Belt cities and regions; enlist the help of top experts in various development disciplines; identify state, federal, and private investment sources to fund priority projects; and advocate for policy reforms that will strengthen Gary, its neighboring communities, Northwest Indiana, and the greater metropolitan region.
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and The Times Media Company are lead partners in GRIP, working in close partnership with community, civic, business and government leaders, and other regional stakeholders. Learn more about GRIP on MPC’s web site: www.metroplanning.org/grip.
For more information, contact Mandy Burrell Booth, assistant communications director, Metropolitan Planning Council, at 312.863.6018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Metropolitan Planning Council
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth.
About The Times Media Company
In 2008, Bill Masterson, Jr., publisher of The Times Media Company, convened “One Region: One Vision,” an initiative to unite key Northwest Indiana business and civic leaders and the region in supporting strategies “that will lead to mutually beneficial and sustainable economic, human, and community development for the common good of all.” The Times has played a strategic role in bringing stakeholders together and providing a forum for discussion—and resolution—of the region’s thorniest challenges.