July 24, 2017-Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson issued a statement on Friday confirming that the City of Gary had negotiations with Lear Seating regarding the company moving to a location near the Gary/Chicago Regional Airport. The Mayor also confirmed that she “made it clear” that she did not want to get into a “bidding war” with a neighboring community. The Mayor called into question the credibility of the Gazette while tying her own credibility to the statement that “Despite our best efforts, the Federal Aviation Authority would not approve a new building at the location of Lear’s first choice.”
The prior article was printed after the Gazette learned that Lear Corporation had purchased two options on real estate near the Gary/Chicago International Airport. According to a source close to the negotiations, the purchase price for the two options was significant. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says that her “economic development team went into high gear” after learning that “they were legitimately exploring Gary as a location.” As outlined above, the Mayor does not dispute the majority of the statements in the original article. The primary point of contention is simply whether the FAA said that Lear Corporation could not build on the chosen site. The FAA will issue a site review report, if requested, and if one exists, the Mayor could simply produce that review and put the matter to rest.
The site which Lear Corporation chose to locate in Gary is the same site on which GEO Group proposed building a detention center in 2016. The proposal was contentious when the public learned that the Mayor’s chosen economic development consultant, John “Bo” Kemp had secretly entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with GEO Group which purported to bind the City of Gary. At no time during the discussions did the Federal Aviation Administration come into the discussion. The project ultimately died because of public opposition. The GEO Group project was much farther along in development than the Lear Corporation project.
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