GARY — The newly refocused Gary Economic Development Corp. took care of reorganization details and a preliminary budget Wednesday, but newly named executive director Tom Collins II, a Luke Oil official, said sizable businesses already are looking at Gary.
“We’re seeing a lot of Chicago and Illinois businesses interested in relocating to Indiana for tax savings, and they’re looking to Gary for the logistics,” he said.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s insistence on becoming business-friendly has already drawn feelers from about 50 businesses, Collins said. The EDC can narrow that down to 10 viable opportunities by the end of first quarter 2012.
One example of businesses looking at the city is a distribution trucking center looking for 50 acres along Interstate 80/94 that could bring 300 nontrucking jobs to the area.
The EDC is not a new idea, but its focus on drawing businesses to Gary, instead of just making small business loans, represents a significant shift in focus, members said.
The EDC initially will be funded with $535,000 cash on hand left over in existing bank accounts, much of that from city funds, along with another $106,200 in an administrative budget. The EDI also will look to draw contributions of about $150,000 from businesses and other economic development “partners” over the year, Collins said.
The total proposed budget is about $790,000.
“Typically, it really is a public-private partnership,” Don Babcock, economic development director for NIPSCO, said of economic development corporations. “My experience has been no community can do it on its own.”
The EDC approved the proposed budget and named its board of directors. Oliver Gilliam was named president and Senella Seabrook as vice president. Doreen Gonzalez-Gaboyan, of Purdue University Calumet, was elected secretary and Gary Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas, D-1st, will serve as treasurer.
Collins said he hasn’t been taking a salary or reimbursements for expenses, but the newly named board approved the hiring of Eric Reaves with a $37,000 salary, with no benefits, and carved out $20,000 from the budget to hire an administrative assistant at a later date.
Collins also listed the EDC’s top priorities as building business through Gary/Chicago International Airport, getting a land-based casino in Gary, working with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which runs the South Shore commuter line, to develop transportation in Gary, landing a teaching and trauma hospital near IUN, and developing an intermodal transportation facility, possibly in the U.S. Steel footprint.