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Indiana seeks to become player in cargo flights

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Indiana seeks to become player in cargo flights (full article)
Posted: March 27, 2011

Website: www.IBJ.com

The state nicknamed the "Crossroads of America" wants to become a preferred landing spot for cargo planes, but industry leaders say Indiana could have a tough time attracting flights from neighboring states because many airports are competing for the same business and freight companies are resistant to change.

The effort to attract flights from Chicago's busy O'Hare International Airport is the latest salvo in Indiana's effort to use tax cuts to draw business from Illinois, which has been raising taxes because of its state budget crisis.

State Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, introduced a bill in the Indiana General Assembly that would have provided a 50 percent tax credit to companies investing in transportation or logistics operations.

The bill was stripped of most of its funding in the Senate because of budget concerns, but Wyss said he hopes some month will be restored in the House after Democrats end a month-long boycott.

Bart Giesler, executive director of the Aviation Association of Indiana, said Indiana is an ideal spot for a freight hub.

"Chicago is just a bottleneck, whether it's at the airport or all the congestion on the roads," Giesler said. "We think if you land in Indiana you can bypass all that and lower the distribution costs."

Most of Indiana's airports are operating well below capacity. For example, Fort Wayne International Airport is at about 30 percent capacity, executive director Tory Richardson said.

Business advocates are working with companies on devising ways to increase the use of Indiana airports and those airports are working to get the word out that they have room for growth.

"We're looking at how do we change this trend of these flights going through Chicago and get this stuff going to Indy, or to Gary or to South Bend?" said David Holt, vice president of operations and business development for Conexus Indiana, a not-for-profit organization that works to boost the state's manufacturing and logistics industries.

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