Even When it’s Sunny, it’s Gray in Gary

I’m doing my Jack Kerouac impersonation this week as I crisscross the Rust Belt of America to visit a client. In doing so, I’ve had to zoom past Gary and Hammond, Indiana, respectively.

I know that each was once a Mecca of steel and heavy manufacturing. But, today, each seems littered with empty, rundown buildings sprinkled in between a few factories spewing out god knows what toxins. Dante’s Inferno comes to mind.Gary_steel_works

The bleak landscape got me thinking: how does a Gary or Hammond attract new, service-sector businesses? Do they offer a plethora of tax incentives so appealing that a technology company would actually consider relocating next to a row of burnt-out shells? Are the advertising campaigns all print? I’d think any photos would be a non-starter.

I may be unaware of some major revitalization stories that are helping each city rebuild. But, I doubt it. Even on Gary’s sunniest days, it’s dark and gloomy. And, I can’t see any package of incentives or publicity programs changing that view anytime soon.

3 thoughts on “Even When it’s Sunny, it’s Gray in Gary

  1. What’s really unfortunate are the beautiful abandoned buildings in Gary. But that’s one of the downfalls of many communities when factories move out – the architecture falls into ruins.
    I have friends who have to travel through Gary and are given the orders to run red lights at night – yea, I can’t imagine the incentives needed to move into that town. But the mayor gave everyone who is on city payroll a clock for Christmas with his face on it. I mean I would move there for that.

  2. Great post, Steve. As I told you recently, I have a lot of family in the Hammond area, and this is a major issue for the local economy. Luckily, most of my relatives who worked in the steel industry got out before things completely fell apart, but it’s sad to see an area once so booming now crumbling–or corroding, to use a more apt metaphor. Post World War II, in the 1950s, times were changing. With farm living bottoming out, hordes of Kentucky hillbillies (and in our side of the state, they really are hills, since we’re far away from the mountains) headed north for the steel mills, where they couldn’t fill the jobs fast enough. Basically, good portions of whole small towns relocated there, so that many of the former residents of cities all around me (diaspora, if you will) recreated themselves there. It wasn’t rare to have multiple people living on your block that you actually grew up with in another state. My uncle met and married a woman from our same rural area up in Hammond.
    And it’s fascinating to see how the demise comes as abruptly in many ways but much more slowly and more painfully, especially as those folks have built roots in that community, to the point that Hammond has been home for far longer than their distant memories of the communities they came from.