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In Your Community

GAF Michigan City: A Commitment to Community

By Karen L Edwards

March 22, 2023

Officials cut the ribbon at Cheney Run Wetland Preserve

Michigan City has been home to a GAF manufacturing facility since 2000, supporting the community's residents through not only the nearly 200 jobs it provides but also countless hours of volunteering. The job creation and increased capacity for serving customers with the GAF Michigan City distribution center expansion is testimony to the company's dedication to building resilient communities.

Since GAF is committed to investing in the communities where team members live and work, it's no surprise that team members are active in local nonprofits, including United Way of Greater LaPorte County Inc., The Salvation Army of Michigan City, and Boys and Girls Club of LaPorte County.

During the process of constructing and opening the distribution center, GAF was also able to donate land back to the community that could strengthen their stormwater management and create new outdoor recreation areas. With the new distribution center and land donation, the GAF facility in Michigan City embodies their overall commitment to the area's people and environment.

Investing in the Community

The new $30 million GAF Michigan City Distribution Center features 200,000 square feet of space and sits on 47 acres of land located between the GAF manufacturing plant and a major highway, providing improved access to transportation channels. Workers from the greater Michigan City area work in the center to manage the flow of products and materials to customers and ensure timely delivery. With over 20 forklifts and tablets to identify product location, GAF can quickly locate and transport materials despite the facility's significant size. This ultimately helps them to load trucks fully in a brisk average of 15 minutes.

This investment in the community infrastructure benefits everyone, says Plant Manager Matt Hannon.

He explains, "It was good for the city. It was good for all the people working at the manufacturing facility who could see the investment made in Michigan City."

The construction of the distribution center generated deeper relationships with the community as well, relying on a local general contractor to manage the project and a local construction company to build the facility.

Helping the Environment

Beyond the obvious benefits of providing employment opportunities for Michigan City residents, GAF was able to support the city's efforts to create a wetland area that would ultimately improve the water quality in Lake Michigan.

Cheney Run, a small creek that ran through the GAF Michigan City property, was collecting stormwater runoff that flowed into nearby Trail Creek before eventually making its way into Lake Michigan. This polluted runoff threatened the salmon that spawned in Trail Creek as well as the water quality in Lake Michigan, which is an important water source for the community.

"The city had done some legwork to look at opportunities to improve the quality of the water as it got reintroduced into Trail Creek from Cheney Run," Hannon says. "They came up with this project that would actually divert the water in Cheney Run to spread across wetlands that were mostly on our property, and then use the wetlands to naturally treat the contaminants that were in the water before it was reintroduced back into Trail Creek."

Hannon says the Michigan City Sanitary District reached out to GAF about the project. "We happened to sit on the land and didn't need to use it for anything, so we donated it to the city, and they were able to utilize it and complete the project."

Improving Water Quality, Recreation, and Wildlife Habitat

The Cheney Run donation was not only about supporting the environment but also creating new recreational opportunities for the community. The area acts as a barrier between the park and invasive plant species, naturally filtering pollutants and releasing water to Trail Creek. In this way, the wetlands can improve the water quality in Trail Creek as well as Lake Michigan, while improving opportunities for recreation and plant and animal habitation.

Hannon said the water treatment portion of the project has been a great success. "It's amazing the difference in the water quality after a storm event. Instead of that stuff rushing into Trail Creek, it's getting treated. The people I've talked to seem pleased with the project's results."

Revitalization plans are still in the process of creating more trails to connect neighborhoods to existing trails and support the development of a new kayak launch area and fishing access points.

Providing Year-Round Community Support

The GAF team members in Michigan City are proud to support local community organizations. "If the community's not successful, then ultimately our team is not going to be successful. The people that work in this facility are the people that live in the community, so it means a lot to be able to invest our time and resources in the place we call home," says Hannon.

Each employee can take advantage of 16 hours of paid time to volunteer in the community—they've supported local organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, and more. Hannon says GAF tries to organize an opportunity to support their community every month as many organizations struggle to secure donations and assistance outside of the holiday season.

Learn more about what GAF is doing to help build resilient communities and read stories about community heroes and other hometown efforts.

About the Author

Karen L. Edwards is a freelance writer for the construction industry and has a passion for roofing, having worked in the industry for 20 years.

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