Gary airport committee hears from other airports with public-private management
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent March 9, 2013 11:28AM
Updated: March 29, 2013 4:07PM
GARY — The ad hoc committee assigned with deciding what kind of management model will work best for the Gary/Chicago International Airport heard Friday from officials with two other airports run by public-private partnerships.
The group heard from officials associated with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and the Orlando-Sanford International Airport. Gary airport consultant John Clark invited the southern airport representatives to demonstrate the experiences of a relatively complex arrangement like Atlanta’s and a simpler model like Orlando-Sanford’s.
The Gary committee is charged with determining if Gary’s airport authority should adopt a different form of management.
In Atlanta, the airline carriers, and many of the services required to run an airport, are managed by A.T.C., a consolidation of the airlines for more than 30 years. Delta Airlines’ David Hamm, once an official with A.T.C., spoke of the management firm’s ability to make operations in Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport in passenger traffic, more efficient and cost-effective.
“For years, the busiest airport in the world has had a model of management efficiencies, shared risk, cost control, all of the things we’re talked about,” said Gary airport consultant John Clark.
“Atlanta (airport) is always ranked very high on customer and industry surveys,” Hamm said.
The Orlando-Sanford airport was launched in 1994 by six investors and saw usage skyrocket, said Brian Garrett, vice-president of finance for the airport authority. In 1994, Orlando-Sanford had about 65,000 passengers, but that rose to 300,000 one year later and is expected to see two million passengers this year.
The municipalities own the land, but the airlines pay for the right to operate there.
Garrett advised the Gary committee to learn lessons from the Orlando-Sanford experience. One lesson was to allow flexibility in any contract it signs. The Florida airport signed a 30-year lease with the operators and were promised $4 million and other things that did not materialize as expected, Garrett said.
“The landscape changes,” he added. “Keep in mind there’s risk on both sides.”
Garrett also told the Gary group to be mindful of ongoing maintenance needs and who will do what and set firm expectations with firm schedules with a management company.