Lakeshore News Tonight

This article underwritten by: Renetta DuBose

Bids In, GaryChicago Int’l Airport Public-Private Venture Takes Flight

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August 26, 2013 — A team of flight experts along with the City of Gary is reviewing proposals from a group of business heavyweights attempting to invest in the GaryChicago International Airport and the surrounding area.  The businesses submitted Request for Proposals (RFPs) at the close of business today Monday, Aug. 26.  Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said a group skilled in the area of running the region’s airport will process those proposals to find a company best suited to help manage the airport, develop regional assets and invest in the airport and the surrounding area.

“The P3 committee, the subcommittee that has been authorized by the airport authority will received those submissions and then begin to review them and ultimately make a recommendation to the airport board,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson.

The city, the GaryChicago International Airport Authority and one or multiple partners will forge a Public-Private Partnership or P3 to move the airport forward and hopefully boost the city’s economy.  More than 20 companies showed interest in investing in the airport at a pre-proposal meeting two weeks ago.  Mayor Freeman-Wilson said she believes a core group is serious.

“Some of those companies will submit jointly.  You may have had over 20 companies represented, but a number of them will partner.  We don’t know what that will look like.  We know that we should at least have eight proposals, which is significant and we expect to have even more than that,” Mayor Freeman-Wilson said.

Significant players attended the RFP meeting from near and far, such as local businessman Pat Lee and those with ties to New York’s Wall Street, such as Guggenheim.

“A number of folks outside of the Gary arena that are traditional bankers and traditional financial people who are discerning in their investment process have seen the value in Gary airport.  It’s one thing for us to say it, but it’s another thing for people to see it,” Mayor Freeman-Wilson said.

Based on the airport’s timeline, the P3 committee review request for proposals Friday and will schedule possible interviews with RFP respondents next week.  The mayor said a team of experts will assist the P3 committee with selecting finalists next month, which will then be recommended to the Airport Authority.  The final P3 agreement is expected by the end of October.

“We will find a partner who will not only look to develop the airport, to determine whether that best development is to expand the cargo services provided, the commercial services provided at the airport or even the general aviation services, but they will also look at the airport footprint.  Is there an opportunity to develop warehouses around the airport?  Is there an opportunity to develop hotels because there is going to be a maintenance facility on the airport grounds that will service planes in the short term?  Maybe with everyone going to WiFi on the planes, can we support a WiFi facility that will equip planes with WiFi, get them in and out,” Mayor Freeman-Wilson said.

The Mayor adds there will be several experts advising the P3 committee.

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