Public-private airport group needs advisers

2013-03-08T15:15:00Z 2013-03-08T18:12:10Z Public-private airport group needs advisersBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

A committee examining options for forming a public-private partnership to attract investment to Gary/Chicago International Airport is looking for a "dream team" of legal and financial advisers.

And although the committee has before discussed getting help on a contingency basis, meaning no pay unless there is success later, some members on Friday broached the idea they might have to pay for some.

Committee member and Gary airport authority member Cornell Collins called legal representation a "critical component" of the committee's work and said the airport authority might consider paying for it. However, Collins questioned if the committee needs a communications manager.

And committee chairman David Bochnoswki, also an airport authority member, said to have credibility the committee might have to pay for some help. Bochnowski spoke to the meeting at the Gary airport administration building by phone.

Airport consultant John Clark said it is in the area of obtaining legal representation that some type of retainer might have to be paid. Clark said he still believes financial and communications advisers could be hired "at risk."

However, getting money from the airport authority to pay advisers could prove difficult. Clark told the committee at its last meeting the airport currently takes in about $300,000 less a year than it needs to sustain operations.

Committee members also heard by phone from airport officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Orlando-Sanford International about public-private partnerships at those airports.

Brian Garrett, the vice president of finance for Sanford Airport Authority, told about a private venture that built its own terminal at the airport and boosted flights from less than 10,000 to more than 1 million in just two years.

However, the company quickly ran into financial difficulties and its contract was eventually sold to another vendor, TBI Airport Mangement. That vendor still runs both the airport's terminals today, while the airport authority continues to run airfield operations and collect landing fees.

The commitee also heard from David Hamm, chief of an airline consortium that runs the terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. The authority there still owns the terminals, but the consortium is responsible for its day-to-day upkeep.

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