EDITORIAL: Narrowing list of airport bidders a good start

2013-09-10T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Narrowing list of airport bidders a good start nwitimes.com
September 10, 2013 12:00 am

Welcome news came last week when a Gary/Chicago International Airport committee announced it has narrowed its list of bidders for privatization down to two consortia of firms well known in the transportation industry.

While this is encouraging news, the airport and city must follow through.

It also was announced a winning bidder could be named by the end of October. The airport should stick to this goal if practicable, but it needs — above all else — to make sure the interests of the entire region are weighed in the analysis of bid proposals.

Even more encouraging is the intent voiced by the two finalist bidders to pursue development both on and off airport property.

Any process for selecting a private consortium — which will answer to the public Gary Airport Authority — must consider how the vendors would contribute to fiscal growth in Gary as well as its surrounding communities. The airport has the potential to be a driving economic engine for the entire region.

Appointing a new airport director also should remain high on the list of airport officials' priorities. With the newly ordained Airport Authority, there are a number of new and moving pieces at play that hold the key to future success or failure for the Gary airport. A new director should be thoroughly vetted and carefully chosen. Let's keep politics out of this one.

Questions also remain regarding when the $166 million runway expansion will be finished. The project could linger until 2015, long after the FAA deadline.

All of these questions still need to be answered. But garnering bids from groups of proven firms is a promising step in a journey that has been long, toilsome and full of false starts for the airport. Some past failures have led to some skepticism throughout the region regarding whether the airport can ever reach its full and promised potential.

Airport officials need to ensure the process for selecting a consortium for this important public-private partnership goes as a check mark in the win column, not a crash-and-burn on the runway.

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