Gary: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Manufacturing, especially of steel, has been the heart of Gary and northwest Indiana. Although hard hit by decline of employment in the steel mills, part of that decline was due to automation, and the steel industry is still an integral part of Gary's economy. The factory scene has expanded to more light manufacturing, such as paper products, plastics, chemicals, rubber, and even food processing. The newest industry to jolt the local economy is tourism, with casino boats, restaurants, and entertainment venues available at the newly renovated Buffington Harbor at the lakefront. Gary and Lake County are becoming increasingly popular for people from Chicago and other urban centers who seek weekend recreational getaways. A 20 percent gaming tax is levied on the casino boats.

Items and goods produced: steel and steel finished products including sheet metal, tin plate, tubing, and bridges; hardware, springs, windshield wipers, light fixtures, apparel and bed linens, processed foods.

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The Gary Department of Planning and Development assists businesses in several ways: through commercial development and redevelopment; infrastructure planning and development; job training initiatives' image promotion and public relations; land, buildings, and community tours; liaison between businesses and individuals; information on available sites; tax abatement; and research.

State Programs

Business incentive programs in Gary revolve around the Gary Urban Enterprise Association (GUEA) which manages Gary's Urban Enterprise Zone program. Urban Enterprise Zones are low income neighborhoods which are designated for special state tax credits to businesses who employ people in the zones. Businesses in the Zones are encouraged in several ways: companies may receive full forgiveness of personal property taxes paid for raw materials or finished products; employers can get up to $1,500 per employee for "employment expense credit" when they live in the zone; a loan interest credit lowers the taxes that lending institutions pay on interest earned on loans to businesses in the zone; and an equity investment credit for individual investors who pay into job training programs.

Another state business incentive program is EDGE—Economic Development for a Growing Economy. Intended for larger businesses that create 100 or more jobs and have a payroll equaling at least the county average, EDGE has many smaller programs under its huge umbrella, including credits for state tax liability; and Job Service Matching System, wherein employers can use the state employment system's service to find ideal applicants for specific needs. There is also an Infrastructure Assistance Grants and Loans program, which helps new and expanding companies to finance infrastructure needs such as new roads, water and sewer lines, railroad access, and utilities. Indiana boasts very low costs for Worker's Compensation and Unemployment. Indiana Strategic Development Fund encourages cooperative projects of two or more Indiana businesses.

Job Training Programs

Jobs 2020 job training program exists under the Urban Enterprise Zone program. Lakeshore Employment Training Partnership (LETP) works with Urban Enterprise Zone programs. Services available to area businesses all focus on providing a well trained work force, including pre-screening of potential new hires, occupational and educational testing, writing training manuals for companies to use on job sites or at various local educational facilities, and analyzing job skills in order to improve performance and productivity on specific tasks. The state of Indiana also offers a program calls Skills 2016, which was initiated in 2001. Skills has five components: the Skills Enhancement Fund helps with costs of training workers of Indiana companies undertaking large capital investment projects; Advance Indiana encompasses many smaller programs which specialize in various types and sizes of businesses that wish to train people in what are termed "transferable skills"; Community Development Block Grants provide federal funding to train people from lower and middle income families; Technology Enhancement for Hoosiers provides $1 million a year for thousands of workers to get technology certification; Training for the Individual Student gives financial aid to students in Indiana universities, colleges, and technological training centers.

More than 16,000 Hoosiers made use of the federal Work-force Investment Act, whose purpose is to improve the quality of the American work force, reduce welfare dependency, and improve the nation's productivity and competitiveness in the world markets. Trade Adjustment Assistance programs focus on workers who have been displaced by increased imports. Building Trades and Indiana Plan programs train people for careers in construction.

Development Projects

The major redevelopment project in Gary since its beginning in 1906 is the Buffington Harbor Lakeshore Redevelopment. The marinas for the casino boats are there, and much of the surrounding 25 square miles needed to be revamped to make it more attractive to the new tourist trade. Neighborhood housing and public services and facilities are being renewed, but natural open spaces, restored brownfields (former industrial sites common in America's Rust Belt) improved marinas and waterways are also underway. Other plans include a health spa, resort, and commercial shopping centers and restaurants, a theater complex, amusement park/water park, museums, golf courses and a golf academy, and new parks and playgrounds. A new arena is being considered for sports, concerts, and conventions. Street improvements and railroad track realignment will be needed to fit in with the new image as well. Downtown redevelopment has three major ongoing projects: street improvements, such as sidewalk resurfacing and lighting; a planned Media Center at 5th and Broadway; and a $45 million baseball park which will be home to the minor league Gary Southshore Railcats. Gary's Housing Authority has several projects underway, most notably the Horace Mann Home ownership project in the heart of downtown Gary, and Duneland. Both are part of the Housing Authority's HOPE VI program. Duneland is a mixed income, mixed finance rental development in the Miller community, which is next to State and Federal Dunes' parks.

Economic Development Information: Department of Planning and Economic Development, 504 Broadway, Suite 625, Gary, IN 46402; telephone (219)881-5235; fax (219)881-1092

Commercial Shipping

Gary Regional Airport, part of the Chicago/Gary Regional Airport Authority, is expanding to become a more major midwest cargo carrier, taking some of the congestion out of Chicago Midway. In addition to the airport, Gary has six truck terminals serving more than 100 trucking firms, most of which can provide overnight shipping within a 300-mile radius. Eight railways have service into Gary. Greyhound Trailways, Vancom, Indiana, and Tri-State provide intercity bus service, and Gary Public Transportation corporation runs buses within the city.

Four major interstate highways offer easy connections to both coasts, the Gulf of Mexico, and Canada.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

The following is a summary of the Gary metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual average.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 323,633

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 18,700

manufacturing: 38,100

trade, transportation and utilities: 59,100

information: 2,500

financial activities: 10,000

professional and business services: 22,800

educational and health services: 39,600

leisure and hospitality: 30,800

other services: 12,300

government: 40,200

Average hourly wage of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.40

Unemployment rate: 6.6% (March 2005)

Gary: Economy

Largest county employers Number of employees
U.S. Steel/Gary Works 6,800
Gary Public School System 3,163
Methodist Hospital Northlake 3,081
City of Gary 2,319
Trump Indiana 1,300
Majestic Star Casino 1,050
U.S. Postal Service 730
Indiana University Northwest 400
Post-Tribune 300
Northwest Indiana Water Company 182
Gary Steel Products 150
Industrial Steel Construction 150
Indiana Vocational Tech College 140

Cost of Living

The cost of housing in northwest Indiana tends to be lower than many other parts of the country, with property taxes as much as 25 percent lower.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Gary area.

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported

State income tax rate: 3.4%

State sales tax rate: 6.0% (food, prescription drugs, and items used in manufacturing exempt)

Local income tax rate: none

Local sales tax rate: none

Property tax rate: $23.42 per $100 of assessed value, assessment ratio = 33.33% for residential (2005)

Economic Information: Gary Chamber of Commerce, 504 Broadway, Suite 328, Gary, IN 46402; telephone (219)885-7407