AvPorts hires interim manager for Gary airport

2014-03-24T16:00:00Z 2014-03-25T09:05:20Z AvPorts hires interim manager for Gary airportBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The former executive director of the Waukegan Port District has been hired as interim manager for Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Duncan Henderson was introduced to the Gary airport authority board on Monday as the first hire at the airport by new private operator AvPorts, which has a 10-year contract to manage all airport operations.

Duncan told the four members of the authority present at the meeting he is there to see how the AvPorts template for managing airports can be applied to Gary.

"I look forward to the day-to-day challenges that are coming forward," Henderson said.

The chief financial officer for AvPorts and its parent company, Aviation Facilities Company Inc., Dan Ungerleider, said Henderson will serve until July 1, when a permanent airport manager will start work at Gary.

Henderson served as executive director of the Waukegan Port District, in Illinois, from 2003 to November of 2013. The Port District operates Waukegan National Airport and Waukegan Harbor, on Lake Michigan.

In late January, the Gary airport authority signed a 10-year deal with AvPorts to run the airport and a 40-year deal with its parent company AFCO as the airport's exclusive real estate developer.

Next month, AvPorts will present the airport authority with a new budget. It will have the option to rehire Gary airport personnel as its own employees or hire new staff.

Airport Interim Director B.R. Lane will remain in her position for now as the direct contact between the authority and AvPorts, as called for in its contract, said Airport Authority Chairman James Cooper.

Lane told the airport authority she and the city administration will soon have a community forum with the city council to "combat misinformation that is being provided throughout the community" about the airport's contracts with AvPorts and AFCO.

"Jobs and economic development are at the core of this," she said.

On March 18, church leaders and others gathered at Trinity United Church of Christ, in Gary, to bash the airport privatization deal brought about by the contracts with AvPorts and AFCO.

The Rev. Dwight Gardner, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations, said he still wants to negotiate a local community benefits agreement for the airport that would assure people from disadvantaged communities in Lake County can work on projects like the current $166 million expansion.

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