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The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) announced the Town of Burns Harbor was named a 2015 IACT Community Achievement Award winner for its community visioning process in the less than 4,000 population category.
The town received its award during the IACT Annual Awards Luncheon, presented by Umbaugh, Wednesday, Sept. 30 at the 2015 IACT Annual Conference & Exhibition in French Lick, Indiana.
Town Council member and Redevelopment Commission President Gene Weibl said, “The town is incredibly honored and grateful to IACT for receiving this statewide award,” he said. “Burns Harbor is a small and relatively young town. Yet the passion and vision of our town’s people have led us through some difficult times. From our dependency on solely industry to the actuality of total financial ruin as most towns faced in the 2000s — our town is currently evolving and now starting a new chapter towards development and economic sustainability. Truly, the story of Burns Harbor is only just beginning.”
Burns Harbor was born out of the growth of Bethlehem Steel in the mid-1960s. The town’s largest taxpayer and once America’s second largest steel producer filed bankruptcy in 2001. The filing relieved the corporation from all the current financial obligations, including the property taxes to be paid to the town. As a result, the town lost 80 percent of the annual tax revenue. Burns Harbor decided failure was not an option and began to recover from the loss in the mid-2000s due to town leadership and financial leveraging.
In 2014, the town searched for a firm to help assess the town and give strategic guidance for the development of land and programs. LiveWorkLearnPlay (LWLP), a real-estate development and advisory firm, was named to lead the long-term development and implementation towards a sustainable economic environment and town identity. Burns Harbor is a community determined to carry on after a devastating loss. The citizens have managed to survive during the difficult times and are active participants in creating a vision for the town’s future.
IACT Executive Director and CEO Matt Greller said, “When a community goes through a time of great challenge or change, that’s when the rubber meets the road. Burns Harbor has seen its fair share of challenges in recent years. Rather than retreat, they have responded with enthusiasm and commitment to emerge better than ever. Their strategy of improving the overall quality of life in the town is exactly the kind of modern thinking municipalities need in order to succeed in today’s competitive economy.”
To view the full narrative of Burns Harbor as submitted to IACT during the award nomination process, visit the Community Profile page on the town’s website at www.burnsharbor-in.gov/202/Community-Profile. A celebratory video highlighting the town is also available on the Community Profile page as well or directly at https://youtu.be/TQt64UeAfwc.
In its 39th year, the IACT Annual Awards program, presented by Umbaugh, recognizes communities and individuals in municipal government for excellence and outstanding achievement. A nine-member panel of qualified judges selected this year’s winners from a competitive field of nominees from around the state.
About IACT: The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) is a coalition of municipal officials who seek to improve the quality of life in Indiana through effective government, and is a member of the National League of Cities. Founded in 1891, IACT is one of the oldest state municipal organizations in the country, with 470 cities and towns as members. IACT advocates for municipalities as the official voice of municipal government in Indiana, and promotes good government through education, training and leadership. For more information, contact Jennifer Simmons at 317-294-8528 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.citiesandtowns.org.
Pictured above are: Burns Harbor Economic Development Director, Joe Rurode (left), accepts the town’s 2015 Community Achievement Award from IACT Executive Director and CEO, Matt Greller (right).