Hammond mayor outlines challenging year ahead in annual State of the City speech

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. expects 2024 to be one of the most challenging years in his two decades as mayor. During his State of the City address to the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, he cited shrinking revenue combined with demands for higher wages.

“We’re going into negotiations this year with police, fire, teamsters, operating engineers, and the last time I checked, people want more money — a lot more money,” McDermott said.

While Hammond is seeing declining casino revenues, McDermott sees water sales as the key to the city’s finances. He believes Hammond can make significant money by selling Lake Michigan water to other communities more cheaply than Chicago.

“But right now, we’re sort of tapped out,” McDermott explained. “We’re literally tapped out. So you may hear word coming from the city of Hammond that we think that another filtration plant is in order.”

McDermott said water department revenues have about tripled since he took over as mayor, though not without legal battles with its municipal customers.

To attract investment, the mayor says Hammond needs to capitalize on every bit of underutilized land. He pointed to the construction of a 400,000-square-foot spec building on land surrounded by train tracks, the Grand Calumet River and the Illinois state line.

“Even people from Hammond think they’re in Illinois because you cross this railroad track and you’re over there, anyway, and you’re just, ‘I am not in Hammond anymore.’ You are actually in Hammond. It’s crazy! There’s like 15 acres just sitting there underutilized for decades,” McDermott noted.

McDermott also defended the city’s efforts to acquire the Reapers Realm property on the southwest corner of I-80/94 and Calumet Avenue, although he did express sympathy for the renters who operate the business.

“Hammond doesn’t have the luxury to sit on property and let it go underutilized. That’s a fact. We don’t have this luxury. We’re not Valparaiso. We’re not Crown Point or Munster. We don’t have the luxury to have 15 acres sitting there with a stupid haunted house wasting away. We’ve got to do our job,” McDermott said.

He also hopes the former St. Margaret Hospital can be redeveloped to take advantage of the Quantum Corridor under development.

But the biggest project currently underway is the West Lake Corridor commuter rail branch. McDermott said it’s completely redefining parts of the city and will bring positive benefits downtown.

“We’re going to end up with a train maintenance depot. We’re going to end up with two train stations, and then, after the line starts running, we’re building the Downtown Hammond train station shortly thereafter,” McDermott explained.

He said design work is currently underway on the future downtown station, which is one of the projects the city plans to pay for with a local food and beverage tax being considered by the Indiana General Assembly.

During his speech, McDermott also weighed in on the School City of Hammond’s financial struggles. The mayor voiced his support for Superintendent Scott Miller. Instead, he placed the blame on the state funding system that pushes many school districts to turn to ballot referenda to bring in revenue.

“Seven years later, the voters have a change of mind. ‘We don’t want this referendum anymore.’ So what do you do? You have to lay off teachers. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous! And that’s what we have to do in Hammond,” McDermott said.

McDermott called the state’s school funding system a failure and encouraged residents to voice their concerns to state legislators.

“Buy Local” Helps Businesses And Saves NWI Consumers, too

Chicago recently enacted a new sales tax increase, which is wonderful music to the ears and cash registers of our retail merchants in Northwest Indiana, as NWI chambers of commerce enter the third year of their wonderfully successful “BUY LOCAL” program.

Initiated three years ago by The Times Media Co., NIPSCO and local chambers of commerce, the BUY LOCAL program was implemented on the heels of the worst recession in more than 50 years, and designed to stimulate our local economy. It has three objectives:

1) Educate consumers on the benefits of Buying Local
2) Encourage more traffic to local chamber members
3) Unite local businesses with their chambers
Dollars spent locally with our merchants stay local. American Express contends that for every $100 spent locally, approximately $68 returns immediately to the community in the form of taxes, payroll, and miscellaneous business expenditures.

The same does not hold true however, if you make your purchases online and out of state. The dollars spent online do not reflect any return to your community and/or state.

The regional chambers of commerce BUY LOCAL program encourages residents to support local businesses FIRST when planning your shopping, be it for a new car, holiday gift shopping, or just a new pair of shoes.

Local chambers of commerce have spent considerable dollars marketing the BUY LOCAL program, and our efforts have been very successful, and we appreciate your efforts to support our local merchants and local economy. By the way, Chicago’s new sales tax now stands at 10.25 percent – the highest in the nation. So the next time you want to buy that new SVU, remodel your kitchen, or just sport a new pair of shoes, remember that if you do not BUY LOCAL, the cost of your purchase, plus 10.25 percent of your purchase, will go to the State of Illinois.

Do the math.

Dave Ryan is the executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own. He can be reached at dryan@lakeshorechamber.com or (219) 931-1000.

Every Day Is A Good Day To Say Thanks To A Military Veteran

The wording on the award begins: “The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Sergeant Glen E. Marvin, United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving with Company C, Third Tank Battalion, in action on Guam on 26 July 1944.

“Under hostile fire, and a stalled tank in imminent danger of taking a direct hit, Sgt Marvin directed another tank to the location, and while subjecting himself to enemy fire, attached a tow cable and the tank was safely removed. After sustaining a hit, he continued to press the attack, and was hit again by machine gun fire. Seriously wounded, he walked unaided to the aid station. His technical skill, forceful initiative, and inspiring devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

My dad served in the Navy at the same time, and I recall him telling us this story about Sgt. Glen E. Marvin (my Uncle Goog), but until years later, the magnitude of the story. and how it relates to “Saying thanks to a veteran,” never really hit me.

You see, my Uncle Goog came back from the war, worked at several jobs, and eventually ended up in Kentland, where he joined many of his war-time buddies, and raised a family of four.

His war wounds, while never discussed, eventually caught up with him, and he died when he was in his late 30’s, and his oldest son was 10. He gave his life for his country, and left his young wife and a family of four children.

We all know someone who is serving, or has served in the military, so when you see them, just say “Thank you for your service, it means a lot to all of us.”

Dave Ryan is the executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own. He can be reached at dryan@lakeshorechamber.com or (219) 931-1000.

BP’s Chief U.S. Economist to give talk at Lakeshore Chamber membership luncheon

BP’s chief U.S. economist will give a talk to members of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce at

Michael Cohen will give a presentation on BP’s “Statistical Review of World Energy” at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 8 at Dynasty Banquet Hall, 4125 Calumet Ave., Hammond. Registration starts at 11 a.m. and the presentation starts at noon.

Cohen will review BP’s annual look at the state of the energy industry and what sources energy is coming from. BP, whose largest refinery is in Whiting, analyzes trends and extrapolates what to expect in the future.

Cohen typically presents the report each year at the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses in Hammond and East Chicago.

Cohen also serves as head of oil and refining in BP’s Strategy and Sustainability Group. 

He previously served as Barclays’ Global Head of Commodities Research and as an economist with the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy and International Affairs. He also worked as a senior member of the Oil Markets Division at the IEA and as a trading desk analyst for American Electric Power.

The Ohio State University graduate is a fellow at the Colorado School of Mines who often lectures on energy issues, oil markets and geopolitics.

Tickets are $30 and must be purchased in advance. RSVP to paula@lakeshorechamber.com or call 219-931-1000. For more information, visit www.lakeshorechamber.com.

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