Gary’s economic fortunes profiled in Federal Reserve report
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 May 21, 2014 11:31PM
In the foreground to the right is Gary's City Hall while in the background a short distance from City Hall is the USS Steel Gary Works plant in Gary, Ind. Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007. Heavy industry continues to be an economic staple across Gary and several northwest Indiana counties known as "the region," part of it extending to Chicago's southeastern metropolitan area. But environmentalists and others worry about the harm it causes Lake Michigan and nearby rivers. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond) ORG XMIT: INJR102
See the report at: www.chicago
Updated: June 24, 2014 7:35AM
Gary is among 10 Midwestern cities whose economic struggles and potential for rebound are profiled in a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Researchers included Gary in the report with cities that suffered significant manufacturing job loss in recent decades.
Fort Wayne is the other Indiana city, along with Gary. Illinois cities include Aurora and Joliet. Others are Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, Iowa; Pontiac, Michigan; and Green Bay and Racine, Wisconsin.
The report cited Gary’s own reluctance to change as its main liability, along with lackluster education attainment levels. The report said Gary has key assets vital to Northwest Indiana’s prosperity including Gary/Chicago International Airport, South Shore Railroad, a proximity to major highways and the lakefront.
“The potential for change in Gary exists, if allowed to happen,” the report concludes. “By all accounts, Mayor Freeman-Wilson has the challenge of halting and beginning to reverse 40 years of decline and disappointment in the short time before the next election cycle begins.”
In 1970, half of the city’s jobs were in the manufacturing sector and they didn’t require post-secondary education or even a high school diploma. Still, Gary’s family incomes and unemployment rate compared favorably to the rest of Indiana.
But since 1970, Gary has lost 54 percent of its population, and in 2010 more than 17 percent of its residents were unemployed. Poverty became pervasive, median family income dropped and almost 20 percent of its residents hadn’t completed high school.
The report said the city has taken “concrete steps” under Freeman-Wilson to make the city viable again. It cited the creation of a Department of Commerce that streamlined permitting into one department, as opposed to 10.
The report also cited the low graduation rate of Gary’s high schools with almost 78 percent of students qualifying for free lunches.
Gary also struggles with a high percentage of abandoned homes and vacant land that impedes development.