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Two finalists chosen for airport management partnership

The Gary/Chicago International Airport terminal. The airport authority Tuesday will consider entering negotiations with two private groups manage airport. |

The Gary/Chicago International Airport terminal. The airport authority on Tuesday will consider entering negotiations with two private groups to manage the airport. | File photo

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Updated: October 8, 2013 6:07AM



GARY — Two suitors remain alive in the competition to manage and develop the Gary/Chicago International Airport in a public/private partnership the city hopes can pump new economic life into the struggling airport.

The firms making Friday’s cut are Aviation Facilities Company LLC/AvPORTS Management LLC and The GCIA Group, LLC.

A committee delegated to review the proposals announced the finalists Friday and it will deliver its recommendations to the new airport authority board at a Tuesday meeting. The authority board is expected to select one of the two proposals in October.

Chairwoman Carrie J. Hightman said generating local jobs will be a consideration as the talks move forward.

“We are initiating negotiations with the two teams that offer the most comprehensive opportunity to unlock value for good jobs and sustainable development,” she said in a statement.

The company selected by the airport authority is expected to invest more than $100 million over the next 15 to 25 years.

“Certainly, they both seem to have robust proposals that will provide great opportunities for development both on and off the airport property,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. The GCIA Group’s leadership team has local involvement including Patrick M. Lee, president of Lee Construction Management in Miller, and Wil Davis, CEO of the Gary Jet Center, Inc., E. Thomas Collins Jr., who has lived in Gary, is a capital partner with Clark Street Development in Chicago. Collins is not related to Thomas M. Collins Sr., the new airport authority president, according to a city spokeswoman.

The GCIA Group also includes NAI Hiffman, a Chicago commercial real estate management company, and AXIS Consulting, Inc., an airport financial consultant firm.

Lee, a long-time Gary resident, served as construction manager for the Charter School of the Dunes in Miller and was the lead local developer and project manager for Gary Jet Center hangar’s I and II.

In its proposal, GCIA said through the Jet Center, that it has the “institutional knowledge and physical presence, equipment and manpower” to operate the airport.

NAI Hiffman would bring the experience to manage the airport’s real estate assets, it said in its proposal.

It also promised a comprehensive employment policy to ensure equal opportunity to local residents, minorities, women and veterans.

AFCO/AvPORTS described itself as a “true one-stop shop” for airport marketing, air service development, business development, cargo development and community engagement.

In 2009, AFCO acquired AvPORTS’s trade name and assets, which included U.S. airport management contracts from Macquarie Aviation North America.

It manages eight Federal Aviation Administration-certified airports and one major passenger terminal in the U.S.

Its partnership team includes Guggenheim Partners, a New York global financial services firm, and Loop Capital, a Chicago-based investment bank.

AFCO listed several accomplishments, including what it called development of the “only privately constructed commercial airport in the U.S.” — Branson Regional Airport in Missouri. AFCO also acquired land and built off-airport parking at the Indianapolis International Airport and at Chicago Midway Airport. At Midway, AFCO developed the Midway Park Ride & Fly service in 2003.

Charles Stipancic Jr. is AFCO’s president and chief executive officer and Daniel S. Ungerleider is executive vice president and chief financial officer. The company listed a corporate address in Washington.

As it happens, just this week, plans to lease Midway Airport to a private company were put on ice when all but one firm dropped out of the bidding.



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