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Improving Gary, one suggestion at a time

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Improving Gary, one suggestion at a time

Monument to Steel in downtown Gary, Indiana

Identifying the greatest need for improvement in Gary, Ind., is the focus of a survey being conducted by the not-for-profit Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago.

In late October the MPC and the Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper hosted a day-long summit in the Steel City to come up with ways to improve the ailing town and surrounding areas. MPC spokesman Many Burrell Booth said a number of suggestions came out of that meeting, which was held at Gary’s Genesis Convention Center. However, the MPC wants even greater input, and not just from Northwest Indiana: The goal is to get ideas from Chicagoland as well.

“We can shape a bright future for Gary and Northwest Indiana by working together on a few key transformative projects,” Booth said. “What should those projects be?”

People interested in taking the survey can visit www.metroplanning.org/GRIPsurvey through Dec. 5. Booth said the survey is part of a broader plan MPC hopes can improve Gary and neighboring towns. The project’s name is GRIP, short for Gary & Region Investment Project.

In late October Ron Simms, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, visited Gary to talk about GRIP. He said Gary has all the ingredients to turn its economic fortunes around but needs a plan to use those ingredients--and stick to it.

“You have a passenger rail system here. You have a lakefront here. You have a university here,” Sims said. “But you have to know where you’re going. You just can’t move from one good idea to another idea. You have to have discipline and execute it.”

Other federal, state and local officials also gathered at the Genesis Center in downtown Gary for the launch of GRIP.

“This is an initiative about Gary as the center. We can’t succeed unless Gary succeeds. But Gary can’t succeed on its own. So this interdependency is an approach that we have found works in every part of metropolitan Chicago,” said MarySue Barrett, president of the MPC.

Barrett said the MPC has led programs in and around Northwest Indiana, but never on the scale of GRIP.

“We get that our workforce is shared. Our land, water and air is all shared. And when they are all not functioning, we all pay a price,” Barrett said. “If Northwest Indiana is not successful, Chicagoland as a whole cannot be successful. It’s that simple.”

At the October conference, Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said something like GRIP has been needed for a long time.

“We’ve been talking about people coming together, not only in Lake County, but the region, coming together and making this region one of the greatest in the nation,” Clay said.

The MPC plans to host other events on GRIP in the coming year, including releasing the survey results.

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