By Giavonni Nickson
The Gary/Chicago International Airport unveiled its new East Corporate Hangar at a ribbon-cutting celebration Friday, August 16.
Duane Hayden, Gary Chicago International Airport executive director, served as master of ceremonies to welcome members of the Gary Airport Authority, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Nick Popovich with Sage-Popovich, Inc. and several dozen local business and aviation professionals and community leaders.
The nearly 25,000 square foot, $1.3 million East Corporate Hangar is Gary’s newest facility enhancement.In November 2018, Indiana-based Sage-Popovich, Inc. signed a 10-year lease to occupy the new hangar. The new hangar further solidifies Gary’s position as the region’s premier mid-sized airport and will further drive growth and opportunity for the airport and its users.
“Investment in facilities like the East Corporate Hangar is vital to the growth and sustainability of the airport. They allow us to continue to attract more corporate and general aviation air travelers,” said Hayden.
According to Hayden the Gary Chicago International Airport has become the airport of choice among corporate executives.
“The new hangar symbolizes the continued momentum we built over the past few years, including the runway expansion in 2015, the opening of the U.S. Customs and border control facility last year,” said Hayden.
In 2015 Gary completed the airport runway expansion from 7,000 to 8,859 feet.
“Build it and they will come,” said Tim Fesko, Chairman, Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority. “This runway expansion allowed us to greatly increase our ability to handle more cargo in general aviation usage and marked a turning point for the airport.”
The U.S. Customs & Border Protection Facility opened in 2018 allowing nonstop international flights. Being able to clear customs means a lot for the future of the airport.
“Now travelers can fly into the airport from anywhere, worldwide, without needing to stop elsewhere to clear customs,” said Fesko.
“The extended runway and the new hangar are big news. Boeing is now one of our big hangar owners. These are all signs of progress,” said board member Denise Dillard.
The airport is a viable economic engine for the region and continued investments such as corporate hangars are important job creators.
According to Fesko, the airport authority has set aggressive minimum hiring standards for the construction of this facility. Twenty two percent of trade contracts were awarded during the course of the project.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson acknowledged and thanked elected officials for their collective work with Gary assets.
Since 2014, Gary has experienced significant private and public sector investment, spurring increased operational and revenue growth. The opening of the East Corporate Hangar is the latest such investment and major service enhancement at the airport, which includes the following:
- Gary Jet Center opens a new $5 million LEED-certified hangar (2014)
- B. Coleman opens a new $9 million state-of-the-art terminal and flight support facility (2014)
- B. Coleman announces 7-year year, up to $20 million expansion plans (2016)
- Gary Jet Center opens a new $3 million terminal and administrative offices (2017)
- B. Coleman opens new $5 million 40,000 square foot hangar (2017)
- Gary Authority Board approves construction of new $2.5 million East Corporate Hangar (2018)
- Updated Master Planning process launches (expected completion in 2019)
“So often as lay people we don’t think the airport is really doing anything unless we can fly in and out of it,” said the mayor, regarding a common misconception.
“What we understand is that benefit and the revenue to the airport and citizens of this community don’t just come through commercial service.
“In fact, one might argue that the greatest benefit comes from when we are able to do general aviation that occurs with the Jet Center, B. Coleman, and the customs facility. It will now occur throughout the east hangar,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson.
“The greatest evidence of progress at the airport is the fact that we have seen over 25 million dollars in non-governmental investment occur at this airport over the last eight years.”
The growth that has taken place at the airport is evident.
“Popavich started over 20 years ago when it was truly cornfields and dust, now look at where we are now with over 100 planes coming in as charters. Progress comes in small steps and it may take a while to get where we want to go but we’ll get there with perseverance and belief in what we do, said Dillard.”
Gary has also partnered with local, state and federal partners to rehabilitate Airport Road, remove unnecessary rail line and bridges and improve airport infrastructure.
Both Mayor Karen Freeman- Wilson and Tim Fesko agree, “The future of the airport is bright.”
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.