Gary airport may put out final call for investors next week

2013-07-19T11:00:00Z 2013-07-19T18:42:15Z Gary airport may put out final call for investors next weekBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

A joint city/airport committee plans to issue a request for proposals from private investors for managing and developing the Gary/Chicago International Airport on Monday.

“The primary asset we are selling is the opportunity that exists here in the future,” said committee member Harley Snyder at a meeting at the airport Friday.

The committee on Friday made it clear there may not be just one winner in the bidding, but that it would consider letting smaller companies partner with larger ones on the deal.

Aug. 26 will be the deadline for responses and the committee hopes to have two or three finalists to forward to the airport authority for approval for further negotiations Sept. 6.

The committee would then commence final negotiations and a winner would be picked and forwarded to the airport authority by Sept. 23 along with an agreement for the authority to approve.

The transaction could be complete by the end of October, according to Rich Hill, a lawyer advising the airport on the deal.

Some committee members Friday expressed concern they could be dealing with an all new airport authority board in September. That is when authority-appointing officials get a chance to change all seven members of the authority under state legislation passed earlier this year.

“These people will have to hit the ground running,” Snyder said.

The airport is seeking investors willing to invest up to $100 million in the airport to spur development there. In exchange, the investors would get exclusive development rights at parts or all of the airport's available space.

The request for proposals to be issued Monday also will ask for proposals for developing land around the airport.

The airport has already issued a request seeking broad proposals and received eight responses. Those ranged from full-fledged proposals to manage and develop the airport going forward to more restricted ones such as a proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant and another to advise on land use.

The joint city/airport committee will seek the approval of the airport authority board on Monday for issuing the request for proposals. So far, the authority has complied with the committee's requests.

Friday's meeting was the first chaired by Carrie Hightman, after the resignation of David Bochnowski for personal reasons. Bochnowski also resigned his seat on the airport authority.

Hightman is executive vice president and chief legal officer of NiSource Inc., a Fortune 500 energy company headquartered in Merrillville. She was one of seven original volunteers appointed to the joint city/airport committee to search for airport investors.

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