Gary, Indiana.

A special production of Comcast Newsmakers from the Accelerate Indiana Municipalities Idea Summit at the Old National Events Center in Evansville, Indiana.  The annual summit features local officials from across the state as they visit together in exchange of development ideas, economic success and needs.

This segment highlights the city of Gary from Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. Hosted by Taylor Bennett. Part 1 of 1.

Read a partial transcript of the interview here:

Bennett: What are your thoughts of the summit so far?

Freeman-Wilson: The summit has been great. Jim Hunt was our luncheon keynote. He talked about building amazing cities and gave some common sense ideas that make you think…have fun. So often you get into this serious mode and you forget to do that.

Bennett: A big theme so far has been economic growth, downtown revitalization, making sure everyone has a great quality of life.

Freeman-Wilson: Absolutely. we understand, certainly, people care about the bread and butter things: potholes, garbage. We’ve been heavily focused on our parks in the city of Gary and focused on art. We have a new mural featuring the Jackson 5. We have a huge public art project sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies called Art House that is not only public art but a culinary incubator.

Bennett: How’s the city doing with growth?

Freeman-Wilson: We’ve actually seen a population increase that we haven’t seen in a long time. Right now you’d be hard pressed to find property on the lakefront in Gary. That’s a great sign of population growth, economic growth and we’re extremely excited about what’s happening.

Bennett: What would you still like to see from your city.

Freeman-Wilson: The thing I’d like to see for Gary is to create opportunities for all of our residents. So many of our residents live in poverty and so the thing we really focus on are jobs. The other challenge we have are vacant and abandoned homes and buildings. We’d like to see them occupied or demolished or deconstructed.

Bennett: When it comes to the summit, do you find it’s a great networking opportunity?

Freeman-Wilson: The summit is a phenomenal networking event. Not only do you get ideas from fellow cities but you also get to connect with people from the local, state and federal level. That opportunity doesn’t come around very often.

Bennett: You’ve been a leader for a long time, is being mayor your favorite?

Freeman-Wilson: That is by all means my favorite. I always tell people this is my dream job.

Bennett: Gary is your hometown?

Freeman-Wilson: Gary is home. What better way to serve than to serve those you went to school with, your grew up in church with, who mentored you.

Bennett: Do you think Northwest Indiana is any different than any other part of the state?

Freeman-Wilson: I think Northwest Indiana is different. We are in the footprint of Chicago, the third largest city in the US. We have an identity in Indiana and in the Chicago-Metropolitan area. It’s the best of both worlds.