News / USA

Population Reflects Economic Woes in One US Town

Multimedia

Kane Farabaugh

The city of Gary, Indiana, was founded in 1906 by the head of the United States Steel Corporation, Elbert H. Gary.  U.S. Steel continues to operate a massive plant along the shores of Lake Michigan, though a dramatic loss of jobs in the steel industry over several decades has brought economic hardship and blight to a once prospering city.  But regional development initiatives are bringing some hope to a town that needs a boost.

In many sections of Gary, Indiana, time has stood still. The remnants of prosperity are now decaying examples of Gary's decline.  

The steel mills made the town, and provided a job directly or indirectly for almost everyone who lived here.

Now, those mills produce more steel than ever before, but with far fewer employees.

"We can make a lot more steel with less people.  It's a high-tech manufacturing operation," explained Jill Ritchie, director of public policy for the United States Steel Corporation.  Their plant in Gary, Indiana, now employs about 6,000 people, down from about 35,000 in the 1960s.

"Those were the days when you were carting things around by hand," Ritchie added.  "We had our own blacksmith operation at the plant.  So you know we've come a long way since those days."

As the steel industry modernized and downsized, the exodus from Gary began.  In 1970, the city's population was just above 175,000.  The latest 2010 census figures show a 20 percent decline in Gary's population in the last decade. Now there are officially about 80,000 people.

That figure has Mayor Rudy Clay concerned.  "We have more than that," said Clay.  "A lot of people didn't fill out those forms so we are appealing that."

If the appeal fails, the city would not be eligible for as much federal funding because of its decreased size.

Gary lost a similar appeal of the 2000 census numbers.  More than a quarter of Gary's population lives in poverty, twice the national average.  Everyone who lives here is looking for a way back to prosperity.

"When you become a one-horse town, you sort of live by the sword and die by the sword.  In this case, steel was our sword," noted Karen Freeman-Wilson, the Democratic nominee in Gary's mayoral race.  Without strong Republican opposition, she will likely become the city's first female mayor in November's election.  She hopes to use the city's location to bring jobs and prosperity back to Gary.

"We are in the midst of four interstate highways," Freeman-Wilson added.  "We are in the midst of three international train lines.  We are also on one of the largest Great Lakes.  We have an airport.  All of those factors can work together to make Gary the transportation Mecca of the Midwest.  It would rival Chicago because Chicago is so congested now."

Leaders in northwest Indiana broke ground in May on a $153 million expansion project at the Gary Chicago International Airport.  Officials hope expanding the runway will attract more freight and passenger airlines that currently use other congested Chicago airports.

There is also a plan to build a large museum honoring Gary's most famous resident, Michael Jackson.  Developers hope the $300 million project will eventually draw hundreds of thousands of tourists to Gary each year.

But those plans remain on the drawing board.  With no groundbreaking date in site, city officials are becoming increasingly pessimistic the project will actually take off.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid