Business leaders, educators, local officials, and community organizers gathered at Blue Chip Casino’s Stardust Event Center on Thursday evening for a gala 25 years in the making – Economic Development Corporation Michigan City’s (EDCMC) Silver Anniversary and Business Investment Awards.
The EDCMC hosted the event to celebrate a quarter century of history, and to honor a range of businesses and leaders for their impact on the city. Ric Federighi of WIMS AM 1420/95.1 FM emceed the festivities, while Craig Dwight, CEO of title sponsor Horizon Bank and winner of one of six Lifetime Achievement Awards for Economic Development, offered special remarks. It was a sold-out, packed house that EDCMC’s team was proud to welcome.
“It’s very, very exciting to see people come out and support the work of the EDCMC,” said Clarence Hulse, executive director of EDCMC. “25 years of working in the community, 25 years of building community relations and partnerships. This gala marks that cooperation, and lets us join with the community to celebrate these last 25 years and look forward to an even bigger, better 25 years ahead.”
Since the organization’s founding, it played part in shepherding over $2 billion of investment into the City, seen thousands of jobs created, small businesses established, and community projects organized. Dwight, himself a graduate of Michigan City High School who calls the city home, pointed to these factors as indicators of EDCMC’s success.
“It’s truly a privilege and honor to speak about the EDC on behalf of the town I grew up in,” he said. “I’ve seen what’s happened over my 50-plus years of living here – it’s been awesome. There are great people here who care about each other, get along with each other, and respect diversity. This is a city that works together.”
Throughout the night, EDCMC distributed awards in categories including Milestones, Business Investment, and Project of the Year dating back to 2018. Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry was on hand to help honor the businesses and individuals.
“This is a community effort,” he said. “The government helps lead the way, but without local businesses, entrepreneurs, and our financial partners like Horizon Bank, these successes wouldn’t happen. I’m excited, what you’re seeing right now is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many projects and plans underway, it’s going to be an exciting time to be living, working, or just relaxing in Michigan City.”
They also unveiled the winners of the Phoenix Award, which celebrates businesses reinventing existing spaces and facilities within Michigan City. Winners included Zorn Brew Works and the Barrellhouse at Zorn for their renovation of a 79-year-old brewery and event center, and Leeds Public House for their work reinventing the corner of Fourth and Franklin streets.
“These awards showcase a sort of ‘rising-from-the-ashes,” Hulse said. “These areas needed a burst of new life. We’re recognizing these three projects that have resulted in new investment in their businesses, new jobs, and enhanced offerings for the community.”
Some attendees were surprised to find themselves winners of another set of honors, the Lifetime Achievement Awards for Economic Development. In addition to Dwight - Patricia Boy, Bob Schaefer, Peggy Moore, Charles “Chuck” Oberlie, and EDCMC founder Sheila Brillson Matias were all recognized for their lasting commitments to and passions for the city.
The Leadership Award, received by Nora Ryszka and Dion Campbell, was celebrated for boosting economic development by improving the quality of life within the city. Ryszka is a local who became a community organizer after a walk on the beach with her children turned her into an environmental steward who coordinates ongoing cleanups of the beach and the city itself. Campbell, meanwhile, has used his position as a Michigan City police officer and Chief of Police to develop youth programs and much more.
“I’m so excited about what’s happening in our community,” said Hulse. “It goes to show that when people collaborate and when people partner, good things happen. If you believe in yourself and your community, good things happen. Let’s continue working together, we’ll have differences every once in a while, but we can have a vision, implement it, and move forward.”
To learn more about Economic Development Corporation Michigan City, visit edcmc.com.