Hammond officials say economic development is thriving

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Africa Tarver, Director of Economic Development and Phil Taillon, Executive Director of Planning and Development in Hammond say economic development is thriving in the city.

Tarver and Taillon say Munster Steel has relocated to the Hammond, constructing a 131,000 square foot facility; Linde Gas has a substantial investment with the construction of a new specialty gas facility; Tribologik Corporation purchased a vacant building that will be the U.S. headquarters for their company which is an oil analysis laboratory. Also, Buffalo Wild Wings had their groundbreaking ceremony at the Oxbow Landing development June 19.

Tarver says economic development is extremely important to the city.

“Besides the job creation component, bringing in new businesses helps grow the tax base and lessen the burden on the current businesses and residents who live in the city,” Tarver says.

Tarver says the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce plays an important role in economic development by bringing businesses together to share valuable insight and resources.

Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Ryan says economic development is crucial in creating jobs and capital investment.

“The capital investment builds a tax base in the city,” Ryan says. “Jobs create dollars that flow through the retail establishments in the city such as housing. buying clothes for kids and paying tuition.”

Last year the Lakeshore Chamber collaborated with the Crossroads Regional Chamber, which represents Crown Point and Merrillville, and the Hammond and East Chicago chambers. Combined the chambers represent more than 1200 businesses, Ryan says.

“That is a pretty big foot print,” Ryan says. “We formed the Lake County Economic Alliance and will focus on county-wide economic development efforts including attracting businesses, retaining businesses and business expansion and marketing. It is a unique effort to position Lake County. Once we get fully rolling we hope to make this a county-wide effort.”

The chamber had Governor Mike Pence as a recent luncheon speaker attracting more than 300 attendees. Ryan says Pence talked about the gateway project, the railway extension and BP Amoco’s $4.5 billion dollar project which just was completed and kept 14,000 contractors employed “during the worst recession in probably 50 years.”

Ryan says the Regional Development Authority project in Hammond, East Chicago, Whiting and Gary is significant to the area. He says $145 million was spent to development the Marquette Plan and Hammond and Whiting created a wonderful lake front. Ryan says Gary and East Chicago are working on their lake fronts.

“It has been a great boost. enhancing and making Lake Michigan a great access for our residents,” Ryan says.

Upcoming chamber events include Linda Figg from Figg Bridge in Tallahassee, Florida who will talk about the new Cline Avenue Bridge. Her company is building the bridge, Ryan says. Also Mike Rippey, chairman of Arcelor Mittal USA will speak to the chamber Nov. 18 talking about the local economy and giving his predications which in the past have been right on the money, Ryan says.

Tarver says building relationships is crucial to economic development, therefore maintaining relationships with existing businesses, while building new relationships with brokers allows her department to retain and encourage expansion of existing businesses while also attracting new businesses.

Liz Kikalos, who co-owns Nick’s Liquors with her brother Nick Kikalos, says she loves doing business in Hammond. Their original location opened on Chicago and Calumet Avenues in December 1971. The business has grown to six liquor stores with four in Hammond.

During the past two years the original store was leveled and a larger store was built.

“Hammond is a wonderful city,” Liz Kikalos says. “We are loyal to our customers and they are loyal to us. There is a lot of potential in Hammond. The city been has been very good to us. We just love the city – their loyalty and they respect us as business owners and we respect them.”

Liz Kikalos says Nick’s Liquors is “not taking their show on the road.”

“We agree on staying in Hamond,” Liz Kikalos says. “We love the town.”