- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

GARY, Ind. (AP) - The area near the Gary/Chicago International Airport needs to overcome decades of neglect in order to attract businesses, according to the city’s top economic development official.

Much of the land along Airport Road faces challenges due to wetland and brownfield issues, so it’s unlikely to be developed, at least in the near future. Most of the remaining land that can be developed is in need of infrastructure improvements, some of which are already underway.

The city of Gary has been working to make the land around the airport more available for development, including lobbying for help in dealing with wetland issues, looking into whether there’s insurance money available for cleanup at some of the brownfield sites, seeking grant money, and doing an analysis of the area’s land.

Bo Kemp, executive director of Gary’s Economic Development Corp., told The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/28KNfGx ) that the city hasn’t really invested in its infrastructure for about 40 years, so the city in a way is starting from scratch as it gets land ready for companies to come in.

“One of the things that is under-appreciated is how much pre-development has to go into it,” he said.

Kemp said the city is focusing its efforts on bringing more heavy industry into the Buffington Harbor area north of the airport, while the land directly across from the airport would appeal more to logistics operations, such as trucking or distribution businesses. He said heavy industry has an advantage over light industry because heavy industry offers more jobs and seeks employees with a broader spectrum of skills.

Kemp has suggested creating access roads into an 84-acre industrial park being developed around Buffington Harbor and constructing speculative buildings for distribution centers or other logistics operations on the vacant land along Airport Road.

Airport Executive Director Dan Vicari noted that a significant amount of infrastructure work is taking place in the area, including the planned improvement of Airport Road, which will involve replacing the road with one that has gutters and includes landscaping, bike trails, and other improvements, such as storm sewers.

The city of Gary also is involved in a $14 million project at Buffington Harbor to improve road access for current and future businesses in the industrial park area.

Some companies are already scheduled to open along Airport Road, including Vexor Technology, a waste-to-energy firm that turns material that can’t otherwise be recycled into a fuel that will be used by Carmeuse as a coal alternative to heat limestone in its kilns.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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