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GARY |  Headquartered in Chicago, The Boeing Company’s influence and presence stretches from the Gary/Chicago International Airport, around the globe, and even into outer space.

And even though Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace enterprise, the company continues to make an impact locally and regionally in Northwest Indiana.

Courtney A. Thompson, Boeing’s director of government operations for the Great Lakes Region based in Chicago, delivered that message at Wednesday’s Gary Chamber of Commerce annual membership meeting at Majestic Star Hotel.

Between 75 and 80 Boeing employees are based at the Gary/Chicago International Airport, which houses the company's corporate jet fleet.

“I’ve had the great good fortune to work with the City of Gary and the Gary airport," Thompson said. "We have a lovely hangar there. Our employees there are mainly pilots and others who take care of the hangar. The pilots shuttle our top leadership around the world.”

During the meeting, she also recognized the Gary Jet Center at the Gary/Chicago International Airport for being named a Boeing Supplier of the Year.

Boeing is also one of the sponsors of the 2015 Gary Air Show that takes off July 11 and 12, Thompson said.

Other Northwest Indiana connections include the celebration of the company’s 100th anniversary in 2016.

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Lakeshore Public Media, for example, will air movies and newsreel footage celebrating mankind’s journey into the skies as well as Boeing’s history. Thompson also invited those in attendance to visit the History of Flight exhibit that is currently touring around the world and will be at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry in the fall of 2016.

In addition to mentoring future generations of workers, Boeing also engages in corporate citizenship “to create positive change in our communities,” Thompson said.

“Last year, Boeing donated $188 million with 52 percent given to education," she said. "We have an employees’ community fund and the employees decide where their donations will go.”

She added that Boeing partners with community organizations in such areas as education, the environment and veterans’ programs.

Boeing employs more than 160,000 people around the world, has an average annual income of $90.8 billion and is the leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems, Thompson said. As a top U.S. exporter, Boeing’s sells 70 percent of its airplanes outside the U.S.

“Our future and our markets exist outside the U.S.,” she said. “We have 21,000 suppliers around the world...Three quarters of the world’s flights are global. Global customers are incredibly important to us.”

That, Thompson said, is why the U.S. Congress needs to reauthorize the Export/Import Bank by June 30.

“The Export/Import Bank provides financing solutions for our customers. It doesn’t compete with banks in this country,” she said. “There are a number of our customers who use the Export/Import Bank in Northwest Indiana. This is not about Boeing. It’s about all our employees and suppliers.”

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