Local legislators push for Boeing location in Northwest Indiana
By Matt Mikus email@example.com December 18, 2013 6:54PM
Updated: December 18, 2013 7:26PM
With news that Indiana economic development officials are pitching the state as a site to bring a new airplane manufacturing facility, regional legislators are pushing Gary and Northwest Indiana as an ideal location.
Boeing Co., based in Chicago, started looking for a site to build its new 777X airplane last month. The company hopes to make a final decision early in 2014. Fifteen states are competing for the $10 billion facility that could create 8,500 jobs by 2024.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Boeing wants to build near an airport with a 9,000-foot runway, and access to highway infrastructure for parts delivery and a direct rail connection.
“Based on the description that Boeing said they were looking for and the accessibility of land, right here in Gary is the ideal place,” Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary said.
The recent expansion of the Gary International Airport helps put the region in a competitive position.
“Certainly, number one, we want to get that Boeing project for the state of Indiana.” said State Sen. Ed Charbonneau.
“And maybe number one would be Northwest Indiana. If that isn’t in the cards, then at least some place in Indiana.”
Other states vying for the manufacturing plant include Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Washington, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Kansas.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, has a background in the aviation industry, and says landing a facility like Boeing would be a huge benefit to the region and the state.
“With aerospace jobs, you’re bringing money in from all around the world into the micro-economy,” said Soliday. “That money will be spent and trickle down throughout the area. That’s just enormous in changing the value.”
Soliday added that there could be a chance that Indiana is not among the top of the lists for sites , but the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s job is to try to present the state as an excellent option.
“Some people will say that Indiana is a long shot. Sure it is, but if you don’t play, it’s a no-shot.”
Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, said there was likely not much left for the General Assembly to do to help the situation.
“I think we’ve done all we can in the legislature to try to create the environment for company like Boeing to take advantage of,” Reardon said.
But Soliday suggests that if the state wanted to be competitive, they may have to look at ways to reduce their overhead costs to help them compete.
“You have to talk to them about what would help make them competitive with Airbus, basically their only competitor in the commercial airline field,” Soliday said. That may include tax breaks that would require new legislation.
“I’m not saying you give them everything they’re asking for, but I don’t see how you’re competitive without doing some legislation.”
Bridget “B.R.” Lane, interim director for the Gary/Chicago International Airport, thinks Boeing coming to Indiana would offer the area a fantastic opportunity.
“We have not been directly involved in (any discussions between Boeing and the state) but would welcome the opportunity to support the state’s efforts to win the Boeing plant,” Lane said.
“The transportation assets in our footprint, air, rail, port, and highway, make this location and ideal one for Boeing’s new plant, and to the extent that the Gary/Chicago Airport already has a long and successful relationship with Boeing, we believe them locating here would be a natural and logical extension.”
— Post-Tribune correspondent Michelle L. Quinn contributed to this story.