New deal proposed to boost Gary/Chicago airport

Tribune reporter

A tentative agreement valued at up to $100 million will be announced Monday for private investors to develop and manage the long underused Gary/Chicago International Airport and incubate businesses in the surrounding area, the Tribune has learned.

The privatization venture marks a new effort to bolster Gary/Chicago's claim as the Chicago area's third airport, behind O'Hare International and Midway airports, while creating jobs and boosting the economy in northwest Indiana.

Gary/Chicago currently offers no scheduled airline service.

The new deal calls for a consortium of investors, led by Aviation Facilities Co. Inc./AvPORTS, of Dulles, Va., to spend the $100 million on and off the airport, starting with at least $25 million in the first three years, according to officials representing Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Airport ownership and sponsorship will remain with the airport authority board, officials said. The two main components of the deal, an airport management agreement and a master development agreement covering nearby real estate, are each five-year deals with automatic renewals over 40 years.

Terms of the tentative public-private partnership will be presented to the Gary/Chicago airport authority board at 10 a.m. Monday, officials said. The timeline calls for approval of the deal and execution of a contract in early 2014.

Read more in Jon Hilkevitch's Monday "Getting Around" column. | Twitter: @jhilkevitch

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