The Gary/Chicago International Airport formally opened its new, 8,900-foot runway to the applause of hundreds gathered below skies crowded with jets and planes practicing for the upcoming Gary Air Show. Airport Interim Director Dan Vicari called the new runway a game-changer for Northwest Indiana and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson predicted that it would benefit the entire region
The project was started in 2006 but only proceeded by fits and starts until about two years ago. It had an estimated cost of $90 million in 2006 that swelled to an actual cost of $174 million by the project’s end.
Gary and region officials hope the opening of the expanded runway marks the beginning of a new era for Gary, as they craft other economic development projects such as a nearby Buffington Harbor industrial park.
An analysis conducted by the RDA in 2012 projects that the expanded airport will help create more than 2,000 new jobs in the region by 2025 and increase personal income by an estimate $156 million annually. Its impact was already being felt in the days leading up to the runway dedication ceremony with the announcement of two fresh private investments in the footprint of the airport.
First, Carmeuse Lime & Stone broke ground on a new rail terminal, part of a $31 million package of investments that include a new waste-to-energy facility. The company plans to add 30 to 40 jobs as a result of the expansion. Just hours after the groundbreaking, Mayor Freeman-Wilson unveiled a partnership with Terre Haute-based Garmong Construction Services to develop an 85-acre industrial park at the airport.
Both projects are being supported by a $7.5 million grant from the RDA. This grant matches funding from the City of Gary and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to pay for $13.5 million in access road improvements to the sites of Carmeuse Lime and the new industrial park. The RDA is committed to helping the airport and city attract more jobs and investment to the region.