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Gary lures Chicago company across border to create 300 jobs

April 16, 2015

An Illinois-based industrial shelving company announced plans Thursday to expand in northwest Indiana with roughly 300 new jobs, a move that comes as a longtime job-poaching rivalry between the two states appears to be intensifying.

Edsal Manufacturing Co. Inc., expects to begin hiring in Gary, including a large number of minimum-wage jobs, in a matter of weeks, according to the Chicago-based company's executive vice president Mitch Liss. He cited proximity to rail, a ready workforce and the infrastructure available in the once-thriving steel town about 30 miles southeast of Chicago. The company, which makes commercial-grade steel shelving and storage systems, will move into the historic Chicago Steel Building in Gary.

Liss said several municipalities wanted their business, but they chose Gary because of its eagerness for new business and cost savings. Gary officials plan to offer tax breaks, which the City Council has yet to approve.

"Instead of us maybe being a teeny little fish in a giant ocean, here we feel like we really have the attention of the senior people, leadership," he said. "We wanted to expand in a place that for us best suits our long-term needs."

Edsal's plans come as rhetoric about luring jobs from each other state has ratcheted up.

Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner told the Chicago Tribune's editorial board that he would come after jobs across the state board and try to "rip the economic guts out of Indiana." Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's office countered by saying Illinois would find it tough to compete with Indiana over its low corporate taxes and business climate.

The exchange followed efforts from previous governors. In 2011, as former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was making efforts to lure businesses from other states, the state put up highway billboards from Illinois asking drivers if they were "Illinoyed by higher taxes?" Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn dismissed the efforts citing the draw of Chicago's location, transportation and technology.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson told The Associated Press that Illinois' high taxes have been a factor for Edsal and other companies. Earlier this year, suburban Chicago tubing manufacturer, T&B Tube Co. Inc., announced it would move operations from South Holland, Illinois, to Gary, which has struggled for decades with high unemployment and crime. The company expects to create 100 jobs by 2017.

"This is extremely important to the citizens of Gary," she said.

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