Cabinet member LaHood visits DuPage Airport
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org June 9, 2011 4:46PM
Spectators clap as Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood finishes up his speech about the importance of regional airports while visiting the DuPage Airport Thursday. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 9, 2011 12:19AM
WEST CHICAGO — The DuPage Airport was celebrated as a success story last week as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood came to call. Consensus was less evident, however, on the matter of a third major airport for the Chicago region.
LaHood’s visit was designed to spotlight the advances made by the West Chicago corporate air field, which has been overhauled over the past decade to turn a $2 million annual shortfall into a $2 million profit.
According to Dan Goodwin, chairman of the DuPage Airport Authority board, the facility’s operations now bring $100 million in new revenue to the county annually.
Prefacing the secretary’s remarks, County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the airport administrators’ knowledge of “how to do things right” has helped make it a draw for major players in the business world. One hundred of the Fortune 500 companies, he said, have done business with the facility.
“We are very, very pleased that this airport has become a profitable entity,” said Cronin, who has spent a portion of his first six months in office addressing mismanagement of tens of millions of dollars by the DuPage Water Commission and the DuPage Housing Authority.
State Sen. John Millner, R-West Chicago, introduced LaHood with additional kudos for the airport and its efficient crew.
“When these jets land, people come out. Everything is run like clockwork,” he said.
LaHood didn’t dispute the praise. Regional airports serve as a critical cog in an area’s vitality, he said.
“The economic engine that’s created by people having this kind of infrastructure is just so important,” he said, adding that the upgrades made around O’Hare International Airport also have improved local economies. “Everybody in the region will benefit from that.”
Many of those who support the establishment of a south suburban commercial airport near Peotone say it would be an economic boon to metropolitan area as well. LaHood isn’t hearing much talk of that yet, though.
“People have not been beating down my door about this,” LaHood said.
He noted that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has long been a proponent of a third airport in southern Will County, but there hasn’t been the same sort of broad call for Washington’s involvement that he heard to inspire his department to lend a hand with the O’Hare expansion. That project received an infusion of $155 million in federal support earlier this year.
“When I am invited to get involved in a project and I can help, I try to get involved,” LaHood said.