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Talking about economics in Gary, Indiana

By News | Last updated: May 21, 2014 - 11:47:04 AM

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Eric Muhammad, Ishmael Muhammad and mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of Gary with TV program host Bennie Muhammad.

Muslim couple Bennie and Rosemary Muhammad, who produce the Resources for Prison Ministries Productions television talk show in Gary, recently hosted Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, the first Black female mayor of the city; Student Minister Ishmael R. Muhammad, the national assistant  student minister to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan; and Eric Muhammad, student coordinator for the Gary/N.W. Indiana Study Group.

The show topic was “Economics.” Bennie Muhammad began the discussion by asking Mayor Freeman-Wilson about economic projects her administration is working on. She responded that the city is currently working with those who have expertise in aviation to determine what can be done to take the Gary/Chicago International Airport to a higher level. Mayor Freeman-Wilson was excited about her administration’s ability to add provisions to the airport contract that guarantee opportunities for local businesses and local residents.

We cannot afford to attract businesses to Gary that don’t offer employment opportunities to local residents, she said.

The mayor said joining with those with airport-related economics experience is helpful. Airport runway expansion is also going to be completed sometime this year, Mayor Freeman-Wilson added. She noted that Gary is being considered for the National Public Private Partnership Award for working in collaboration with those with aviation experience.

The city is also working in conjunction with the federal government, a hospital and those interested in the downtown area to create a North side Development Corridor on the lake front. Gary also has an entire corridor, the 18th St. Brewery, with restaurants and opportunities for people to establish small businesses and jobs, the mayor said.

She mentioned a partnership between the city of Gary and Indiana University Northwest to develop the University Park Project. The plan is to build a $45 million building in Gary. It will include a 6,000 seat performing arts center with a movie theater, which Gary does not have. The mayor said the city will build retail businesses and housing units to provide opportunities for small businesses. The city also has partnership with the University of Chicago, she added.

Min. Ishmael Muhammad commended Mayor Freeman-Wilson on her initiatives and said positive initiatives should be supported. These initiatives hold a lot of promise and perhaps could serve as a model, he continued. Perhaps a model could be developed to showcase how to rebuild areas that face issues such as crime, lack of education and lack of services, he added. We must raise the level of consciousness in our people and help our people gain that essential knowledge that will bring them to self-love and self-respect, said Ishmael Muhammad.  That would encourage more development and benefit the community and the city, he said.

Bennie Muhammad commended the mayor for creating the Gary Drug Court when she served as a city judge in court. The mayor shared the importance of compassion for those fighting addictions and her realization that addiction is a debilitating disease. In the drug court we work to provide treatment, support and rehabilitation, the mayor said.

Eric Muhammad noted that the Nation of Islam has an 84-year-old old history of reforming Black people. We have a program given to us by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan that has proven itself to be successful and will enable a person to transition out of that condition, he said. Eric Muhammad encouraged the community to visit the Gary Study Group or the Nation’s Mosque Maryam in Chicago.