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Federal Reserve paints hopeful picture of Gary

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GARY, Ind. (AP) — New leadership, a growing attitude of regionalism and significant assets including major transportation infrastructure offer hope for economic growth in Gary, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago concluded in a recent study.

The bank profiled Gary and nine other Midwestern cities that also suffered major manufacturing job losses in recent decades as part of its Industrial Cities Initiative. It wanted to learn why some cities outperform others and whether their successful strategies can work in underperforming communities, The (Munster) Times reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1sBK46Y ).

Conditions have grown so bad in Gary that leaders have come to define success as halting decline, the study's authors said. But the city has crucial assets, including commuter rail to downtown Chicago, its location on Lake Michigan and an international airport that could handle more commercial freight.

Assets also include Indiana University Northwest and a nearby Ivy Tech Community College campus that are at the core of Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's plan to develop a University Park neighborhood.

Freeman-Wilson herself represents hope for a turnaround, the study said.

"By all accounts, Mayor Freeman-Wilson has the challenge of halting and beginning to reverse 40 years of decline and disappointment in the short time before the next election cycle begins," the study said. "Some resources have the potential to help: strong regional partners ready with investment, a new spirit of accountability at city hall with a team ready to execute, resources and programs ready to train a young workforce, and a large industrial presence that continues to make significant investments in the area."

The city that has lost more than 54 percent of its population since 1970 also may have bottomed out. The study's authors say "there is almost no way not to make it better."

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Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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