Gary economic development group’s budget to remain private
By Michael GOnazlez Post-Tribune correspondent December 22, 2012 5:14PM
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:45AM
GARY — Leaders of the Gary Economic Development Corp. declined to share details of its budget, but the not-for-profit corporation may grant raises to three staff members and a salary to its director, Forest Hayes, who also heads the city’s Commerce Department.
Hayes declined to say how much is in the proposed 2013 budget, referring more detailed questions to the city’s communication director, but he said “it’s sound. It allows us to operate and execute our (economic development) mission over the next 12 months.”
At its Wednesday night meeting, the seven-member board of the EDC, most of them business people, heard the “highlights” of the staff’s proposed 2013 budget. Several board members, and Hayes, said they want to reduce the EDC’s “professional services” costs and other expenses before finalizing its numbers.
Hayes asked the board to increase the administrative assistant’s salary form $4,845 to $25,000 and the assistant director’s salary from $37,000 to $50,000. The proposal also calls for giving Hayes, who receives $90,000 from Gary taxpayers in his capacity as Commerce director, a $15,000 salary.
The EDC’s workforce development manager would make $45,000.
Technically, the EDC is a private, not-for-profit corporation, said board attorney Michael Tolbert, adding the corporation is not an arm of Gary city government.
But, the EDC’s seven board members are appointed by the Gary mayor, the board meets in the City Hall boardroom, and its staff members work in City Hall offices. Also, the EDC’s workforce manager is Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s former secretary.
The EDC is in “a restructuring phase,” and one of its new policies likely will be to not share its financial information with the public due to the sensitive nature of courting businesses thinking about operating in Gary, Tolbert said.
“It should be the (EDC’s) policy not to give out financial information that can jeopardize the city of Gary’s opportunities to bring businesses into the city.” he added. “I’m sure there’s a host of things the EDC would do to incentivize a company to come to Gary.”
It was unclear if the EDC, which was largely dormant, except for issuing some loans, before Freeman-Wilson began her first term in January, had a formal budget for 2012.
An EDC cash flow statement for 2012 indicates the company started out with $657,320 in cash and projected $508,148 in cash as of late November.
Aside from salaries, the EDC’s largest cash outflows to-date were a $50,000 “donation” to Hayes’ Commerce Department for salary supplements before he became the director, $25,250 for administrative work and other expenses paid to the Empowerment Zone, $13,600 to an accounting firm and $1,481 in legal fees.