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Forbes ranks Gary 19th among ‘Most Miserable Cities’

A homeless man leaves bus shelter along Broadway Gary Friday afternoon. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

A homeless man leaves a bus shelter along Broadway in Gary Friday afternoon. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 24, 2013 6:10AM



Forbes magazine released its annual list of America’s Most Miserable Cities placing Gary at 19th among the Top 20.

Detroit tops the list. Chicago is No. 4 and Lake County, Ill., is No. 9.

The list is determined using nine factors, including violent crime, unemployment, foreclosures, taxes, and home prices for the 200 largest metro areas in the country. The list also factors net migration, weather, and the average commute times.

Forbes editor Kurt Badenhausen, who compiled the list, said the factors are based on statistics for the Gary Metropolitan District, which includes Jasper County, Lake County, Porter County and Newton County. Each metro area is determined by the same areas used in census counts, where large metropolitan places are divided

Gary’s rank is mainly attributed to a high rate of foreclosures and migration out of the city. One in every 492 housing units received a foreclosure filing in January 2013, compared to Chicago’s rate of 1 in every 356 housing units, and 1 in every 517 in Detroit in the same time frame.

Forbes estimates that in 2011 635 people left the city, with a population of 709,300. Compared to Detroit, with 17,170 leaving and a population of 1.8 million in the metro area, and Chicago’s 7.9 million with 22,640 leaving the metro area.

The violent crime rate has been decreasing since the 1990s, according to Badenhausen, lower than other cities on the list. He said an increase in housing prices and lower taxes improve the city’s stock.

“Housing prices are up 10 percent over the past three years,” Badenhausen said. “That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a pretty substantial gain compared to other metro areas.”

Gary leaders weigh in

Unless the list considers the people living in the communities, state Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary says it’s not worth the time worrying over those lists.

“I don’t put much stock in those ratings,” Brown said, “unless they talk to the people who live here, and the leaders of the community.”

While the city has had hard times and is still recovering from an economic slump, Brown said great opportunities await the city.

“The mere fact that there’s good housing stock, people are still living here,” Brown said, “and the employment in the area is starting to pick up. And there’s space for businesses to develop and grow.”

And if legislation passes through the Indiana General Assembly providing an economic boost with a potential new shipping port, a study for a trauma center and plans for a medical teaching facility, Brown believes a bright future lies ahead.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the list shows how the loss of jobs in the manufacturing industry has affected the region in general.

“I think it’s a reflection of how the economic downturn has affected us,” Freeman-Wilson said, “and not just the most recent downturn but over the past 20 years.”

Instead of dwelling or denying the facts, Freeman-Wilson said it’s more important to ask what can be done. The city needs to attract a variety of industries that aren’t affected by the same ebbs and flows of the economy, like transportation and health care.

“You may have some downtime in transportation, but trucks and trains are always going to run,” she said. “And the potential port and the teaching hospital, they’re always going to be in demand. That’s why we’re focused on making that happen.”

She also points to the fact that a recent study of the Best Performing Cities in 2012 by the Milken Institute listed Gary as one of the most improved in the past year, jumping 83 spots from No. 195 in 2011 to No. 112.

Separate from Forbes listing, it considers job growth and wage growth in developing its list.

“We’re already seeing improvements,” Freeman-Wilson said.



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