It Takes Time

“I can’t imagine why some forward-thinking company wouldn’t want to do something…”

This story is part of our Flight Paths initiative. Produced by Rebecca Werner for the Welcome Project.

Transcript for It Takes Time

Anybody that I’ve ever talked to about Gary has the same view that I do: that’s it’s a total lost cause. Nothing can be done to turn Gary around. So, it’s hopeless. And why is that so? Well, probably at its zenith, Gary had maybe a hundred and seventy-five thousand people in it. But keep in mind, during that time, U.S. Steel — not just U.S. Steel Gary Works, which employed over twenty thousand people, ok? You had Inland Steel Mill, you had Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, you had Bethlehem Steel. You had all these steel companies that would support, you know, a town of that size, but as steel-making — it not only got better, steel is not only made better, now, it’s made incredibly more efficiently. They used to make steel by melting—it would come out of the blast furnace as iron, they would cook it in these Bessemer ovens with scrap metal, and produce steel which they would pour in these molds. They’d let the molds cool, then they’d pull the molds off, then they’d have to take them over to another place, reheat them, and then roll them into slabs, and then from there, roll them into coils that went to make refrigerator doors and things like this. Now, they make a heat of steel in about thirty minutes, and they pour it in this giant cascading tundish, and these slabs come cascading down all ready to be cut. So, the number of people who work? It’s maybe about seven or eight thousand people in that mill now.

So, Gary’s — what are you going to do with Gary? And what a shame, because if I ever drive you through that city, man, that place is laid out beautifully. It’s a perfect north-south-east-west grid. The streets are, you know, it’s states on the east side of Broadway, presidents on the west. It goes from 2nd Avenue to 54th Avenue. Perfect. And, I suppose if you could just take bulldozers and knock down all the houses, you could make something out of it. Certainly, there’s a lot of vacant property in Gary. Tax base is super-low. I can’t imagine why some forward-thinking company wouldn’t want to do something like that. Why wouldn’t you just build a Saturn auto plant down on 11th and Grant Street where the old Anderson Windshield Wiper Company used to be? It’d be a perfect greenfield site to just demolish and put a huge industrial complex in there. But nobody wants to stick their foot in the water. ‘Oh, that feels pretty good. Ok, let’s build a big house here.’ No, they’re not going to do it.

Like, let’s just say you could buy a whole block: my old street, for some minimal amount of money. Ok, so now I’m going to erect a nice house there. Well, there’s got to be somebody else to do the same thing, or else I’m just going to be a nice house out in the middle of nowhere. And this takes time, to develop a whole new neighborhood. I just think people look at it and say, ‘There’s plenty of farmland in Valparaiso for sale. Hebron. Wheatfield. Kouts. We’re not going over there.’

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