Dozens of Mishawaka residents showed up to Monday night’s mayoral debate, but many of their questions centered around one topic – the economy.
During the event in Wiekamp Hall at Indiana University South Bend, residents were told to write down their questions for the candidates, who would then have 90 seconds to respond. Most of the submitted slips asked how Craig Fry and Dave Wood would create more jobs and bring more money to Mishawaka.
“Jobs is very important, the manufacturing jobs especially,” said Mishawaka resident Betty Kyle. “People make the good living wage, retirement benefits, health insurance. A lot of things that go along with the good manufacturing jobs that restaurants and bookstores don’t have.”
Both Fry and Wood said during the debate jobs will be their top priority if elected.
Fry says one of the city’s only tools in helping grow jobs is Capitol Avenue. He says the easily accessible corridor will be attractive to businesses once finished. But Fry says the city shouldn’t wait that long to talk to interested companies.
“We have to have economic development experts working for the city and helping us find manufacturers to come into the community and provide good jobs that pay a living wage,” Fry said.
Wood says he also believes Capitol Avenue is essential to helping Mishawaka’s economy grow. Many residents are concerned the corridor will turn into another Grape Road, full of restaurants and retail. But Wood says he has other plans for the stretch of road.
“We can get unique services such as Metronet through that corridor so that we're providing not just water and waste water, but maybe it's fiber optics and Internet that companies and major manufacturers are going to need,” Wood said.
The candidates also talked about the need to attract businesses to Mishawaka’s downtown. Fry says he’d like to see more housing in the area so large businesses like grocery stores come to Mishawaka, adding more jobs.
Wood says the current construction downtown is helping not only improve Mishawaka’s infrastructure, but also its appearance, making locating to the city more attractive to businesses.
But there are some who think Mishawaka is just fine the way it is.
“I really don't have any complaints with Mishawaka having lived here my whole life,” said resident Phyllis Nicolini.
Voters will decide who takes the seat on Nov. 8.