CHICAGO — The airport in Gary, Ind. received 10 responses from firms interested in privatizing the facility and surrounding land that stretches to Lake Michigan.
"We are very pleased with the number of respondents and the breadth of their expertise," Carrie Hightman, chair of the ad hoc committee exploring a P3 for the airport, said in a statement. "These respondents demonstrate the value that can be unlocked at the airport to create good jobs and sustainable development for Gary and the region."
Supporters say the privatization will help revitalize the struggling city of Gary and position the airport as Chicago's third regional airport. The facility is located about 25 miles from downtown Chicago.
Unlike other airport public-private partnerships, the Gary proposal features a large swath of vacant land that officials hope private investors will develop to help boost business at the airport and in the city.
In addition to a $100 million investment, the committee is looking for investors to outline a five-year management plan and a five- to 10-year investment plan in the surrounding area, anchored by significant private investment.
The responding firms are: ACO Investment Group, Inc.; Aviation Facilities Company/AvPorts Management LLC, which includes Guggenheim Securities and Loop Capital; Rice Financial Products Company; the Arsh Group LLC, an Indiana-based planning and design firm; Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council, a non-profit group focused on regional economic development; Vancouver, B.C.-based airport and commercial development consultant firm MXD Development Strategists; Washington DC-based Financial Network Center LLC; the GCIA Group LLC, which includes the Williams Capital Group; Renditions Studio; and Z-Force Transportation, Inc.
Proposals outlined in the initial series of responses ranged from creating an "airport city" to building new infrastructure, a green research center and moving the airport toward an industrial business model.
Guggenheim's proposal would create a new municipal authority to lease the airport from the city. The new authority would float tax-exempt airport revenue bonds to finance an upfront cash payment as well as deferred maintenance, fund a capital reserve account for new facilities, a debt service reserve fund and annual payments to the airport authority over time.
The airport is in the midst of a $166 million runway expansion program that is expected to be completed this year. The authority plans to come to market with up to $60 million of tax-exempt bonds to finance part of the project.
The airport received eight responses in July to an initial request for interest and qualifications. The deadline for final responses was Aug. 26.