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WHEELING, Ind. (WISH) — An Oxford, Indiana, woman died in the crash of her SUV and a tow truck on Monday morning, the Indiana State Police say.

Ashlena King, 29, died at the crash scene in eastern Carroll County.

Police were called just before 10 a.m. Monday to the intersection of county roads 100 North and 500 east. That’s in a rural area a mile north of State Road 18 and about 3 miles west of State Road 29.

King had stopped at the intersection before continuing to go north when an eastbound 2023 Hino Tow Truck driven by Joshua Cooper, 30, of Gary, hit the driver’s side of the her Ford Edge SUV. The vehicles came to rest in a field on the intersection’s northeast corner.

Cooper was not hurt.

State police helped local law enforcement to reconstruct the crash.

The crash site is about a 80-minute drive north of downtown Indianapolis.

Oxford, a town in Benton County, is about a 90-minute drive northwest of Indianapolis.

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has announced it will resume independent management, operations and development of the airport. The airport is exiting its agreements, signed in 2014, with airport manager Avports and airport facilities developer Aviation Facilities Co., both based in Virginia.

The authority says the agreements were signed to assist in the evolution of offerings at the airport. After eight years, the airport says its sustained growth and added infrastructure offerings has positioned it to be independently operated.

“We are pleased to be able to exit these agreements with much more robust aviation-centric infrastructure, operations and facilities in place, allowing GCIA to strongly position itself for the coming years,” GCIA Board Authority Chairman Pete Visclosky said in written remarks. “Years of sustained growth and investment by public and private entities alike have created strong momentum allowing the airport to move towards its long-standing objective of a locally sustainable airport, and we thank both Avports and AFCO for their contributions over the past few years to our continued success.”

The airport cites the main runway extension project in 2015, as well as the completion of its U.S. Customs Facility in 2018 as two of the main improvements since signing the agreements with Avports and AFCO.

In 2020, the airport authority approved a lease agreement with UPS to begin cargo service operations.

Earlier this year, the airport completed an update to its Master Plan, which it says will guide the next 20-25 years of airport development and aviation growth.

“Avports is proud to have put GCIA into a position to control their own destiny and success,” said Avports CEO Jorge Roberts. “As GCIA takes steps toward their next phase of progress, Avports remains committed to providing the highest level of service during the upcoming transition.”

The airport did not immediately provide a time frame for the transition to be complete.

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The chief executive officer of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. (NYSE: X) visited the Gary Works facility as the steelmaker begins construction on a $60 million pig iron caster. David Burritt says the project, expected to create 25 jobs, will improve the company’s self-sufficiency.

U.S. Steel first announced plans for the pig iron caster in February.

Pig iron is a raw material needed for electric arc furnaces, which the company says it plans to utilize for steel production as part of its advanced metallics strategy in addition to more traditional blast furnaces.

“This investment at Gary Works, to create the necessary material for our lower-emissions electric arc furnaces, is the perfect example of combining the best of integrated and mini mill technologies,” Barritt said in written remarks.

The caster will be fed with iron ore from U.S. Steel’s ore operations in Minnesota. The pig iron produced in Gary is expected to supply up to 50% of the ore-based metallics needed for the company’s Big River Steel Works in Arkansas.

“Gary Works is U. S. Steel’s largest manufacturing plant and its role in the Company and in this community is significant,” said Gary Works Vice President Daniel Killeen. “Knowing that the nearly 4,000 employees at Gary Works are not just contributing here, but we now get to utilize our blast furnace efficiency to contribute to the company’s new, most environmentally friendly operations at Big River Steel Works, is something we’re excited about.”

Pre-construction of the caster began in the first quarter with production expected to begin in early 2023.

Pictured above, left to right: Gus Atsas, President, USW Local 1014 Gary Primary Operations; Congressman Frank Mrvan; David B. Burritt, President & CEO, U.S. Steel; Scott Buckiso, SVP & Chief Manufacturing Officer North American Flat-Rolled Segment, U.S. Steel; and Dan Killeen, Vice President, U.S. Steel Gary Works.

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — While there has been progress to restore the fiscal solvency of the Gary Community School Corp. over the past five years, the state agency overseeing the recovery may extend the contract of the private company managing the district.

In an open letter to the community, GCSC Manager Dr. Paige McNulty said the Distressed Unit Appeal Board is discussing the contract it has with Florida-based MGT Consulting. The contract is set to expire at the end of June.

In 2017, the state appointed MGT to manage Gary Schools to improve the financial picture of the district. Last month, Gary schools reported a $2 million surplus for 2021 after having a deficit of more than $21 million just four years prior. The district called the surplus a “watershed moment.”

McNulty says most DUAB board members support renewing the MGT contract for a final, two-year period, that would lead to GCSC exiting distressed unit status.

“We are at this position because of the progress students, families, staff, and administrators have made together in recent years. We have eliminated the school district’s $22 million deficit, invested in modernizing our school buildings, increased teachers’ salaries, and extended the school day. This work is paying off,” said McNulty in the letter.

She says DUAB board members will next month hold a meeting in Gary to allow MGT to present its plan for the next two years. Residents will also have an opportunity to share what they would like to see.

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $5 million grant to Indiana University Northwest to boost the number of students in the region graduating with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. The five-year grant will focus on Hispanic and low-income students.

The grant comes from the DOE’s Hispanic Serving Institution Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and Articulation Program. The funding supports the creation of Transforming IU Northwest for Opportunities in STEM, or TRIUNFOS, which includes four strategic components.

The components include a curriculum redesign and faculty development, which will include research experiences for students as early as their first year in college. The program will also feature wraparound academic and student support services for STEM, including employment opportunities, peer mentoring and STEM-specific transfer coaching.

IU Northwest says it will also work to create new and enhance existing high school, community and employer partnerships in the region, including a collaboration with Ivy Tech to develop advantages through a shared campus. The university also plans to create a STEM Resource center for both IU Northwest and Ivy Tech students.

“This grant is a testament to IU Northwest’s leadership in creating opportunities for the people of Northwest Indiana,” Chancellor Ken Iwama, said in a news release. “Establishing a center of excellence for STEM education is an ambitious goal and this grant brings us closer to realizing this game-changing community asset.”

IU Northwest is the only public higher education institution in the state with the HSI designation. The university says it expects to make significant investments over the next few years to get the TRIUNFOS program up and running.

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Gary Community School Corp. has regained control of its special education services after eight years. The district had been operating under special conditions from the Indiana Department of Education to achieve compliance with state and federal special education regulations.

The IDOE imposed the special conditions in the 2012 fiscal year “to ensure students are being evaluated and placed in the least restrictive environment.” The district says it was informed last week that it has “met all requirements” to lift the special conditions.

“This milestone is the result of a lot of hard work from teachers and administrators to give students the services they need to support their learning,” GCSC Manager Dr. Paige McNulty said in a news release. “This is a milestone, not a finish line, and we have much more work to do, but I’m proud of our team’s achievement and what it means for our students.”

According to the IDOE, about 15% of GCSC students identified as students with disabilities in the 2020-21 academic year.

“There is a lot of talk these days about equity; well, this is what equity looks like, when all students get what they need,” McNulty said. “We are laser-focused on improving academic outcomes, and ensuring all students get appropriately evaluated and receive the services they deserve is a key step forward in our ongoing work to advance student learning.”

In August 2020, the district unveiled its two-year plan, The Path Forward, designed to improve academics, engagement, fiscal matters, and operations. In addition to the ruling from the IDOE, McNulty says the district has achieved other milestones, including the creation of new Career and Technical Education pathways in auto mechanics and horticulture, increased training opportunities for school-based staff and families, and a 21% decrease in findings on state and federal audits from the last several years.

“Over the last few years, we have made tremendous progress in stabilizing our budget, and the next mountain for us to climb is academics,” said McNulty. “While we have much more to accomplish, today’s announcement is an encouraging reminder of the gains we are making.”

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A major part of the new Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary will open in just over a month.

The casino says the Hard Rock Live entertainment venue will kick off Nov. 4 with a concert from Chicago-based rock band Disturbed.

The casino says the venue features state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. The venue can seat up to nearly 2,000 patrons, with room for just over 2,200 including standing room only.

The $300 million, 200,000-square-foot casino opened in May after more than a year of construction. The casino was made possible after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill in 2019 allowing the two Majestic Star riverboat casinos to be relocated and consolidated into one land-based casino.

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Greenwood-based Indiana American Water (IAW) and parent company American Water (NYSE: AWK) have announced fully remote, customer service job openings for Gary and northwest Indiana residents. IAW is working with Gary Mayor Jerome Prince on the initiative.

The utility says it is looking to hire approximately 20 workers who live within two hours of its Gary office.

“By recruiting Gary residents to train and work in these customer service positions, they are not just offering jobs, but the opportunity to build careers in a growing field and with a growing company,” said Prince. 

Indiana American Water President Matt Prine says the customer service job initiative is an investment in the community. 

“Our commitment to customers and the communities we serve goes beyond the delivery of safe, reliable water and wastewater service – it also includes helping to make communities better because we are there, and this is a perfect example of that,” said Prine. 

Click here to learn more about the job opportunities. 

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Indiana American Water (NYSE: AWK) has kicked off a more than $24 million campaign to replace water mains in Gary. The utility says says the project will retire about five miles of water mains and add nearly 11 miles of new water mains over the next three years.

The project aims to replace or retire steel and cast-iron pipe along Sixth and Seventh Avenues from Wabash Avenue to Kentucky Street along with several north-south streets in the area.

“When we purchased this system more than two decades ago, we knew significant investments were needed. Since that time, we have already invested more than $400 million in our water infrastructure in northwest Indiana. These investments will improve the reliability of our distribution system and enhance system flows and firefighting capabilities across Lake and Porter counties,” said Indiana American Water President Matt Prine. 

Gary Mayor Jerome Prince says the planned improvements are needed in the area.

“Investment in water infrastructure is critical to the success of Gary and all of northwest Indiana. Water from Indiana American Water sourced from Lake Michigan is considered a premium product in the region and is a key part of the high quality of life we depend on every day, ” said Prince.

The work is being done by Rex Construction and design and inspection services are provided by DLZ. 

GARY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Indiana’s newest land-based casino will Friday celebrate its grand opening. The $300 million Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana will open its doors following a “Guitar Smash” event featuring celebrities, including Gary natives Tito, Jackie and Marlon Jackson.

Plans for the Gary casino have been in the works since early 2019, when Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill allowing for the relocation of the two Majestic Star riverboat casinos into one land-based facility. Ground was broken on the new casino in January 2020

The 200,000-square-foot casino features more than 1,600 slot machines and 80 table games. It also includes five food venues, an on-site sportsbook, retail shop, and a nearly 2,000-seat Hard Rock Live performance venue.

The Guitar Smash will also feature Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy and Mark McGrath, lead singer for rock band Sugar Ray, among other celebrities.

The event marks the completion of the first phase of the development. Hard Rock says Phase 2 will include the addition of a 200-room hotel and a multi-level parking garage, though a timeline for construction was not provided.