By Carson Gerber
---- — GRISSOM AEROPLEX — Miami County officials say they hope Grissom Aeroplex will be selected as the site for a new $10 billion airplane facility that could employ up to 8,500 workers by 2024.
Boeing Co., which is based in Chicago, began soliciting bids last month for a site to build its new 777X passenger jet.
Gov. Mike Pence said state economic development officials have talked to the company about building its planned airplane manufacturing and assembly facility in Indiana.
"We have had contact with them and discussions, but I won't comment further on those," Pence told The Times of Munster. "I will tell you, every opportunity that we are given to tell Indiana's story and make the case for Indiana — we do."
Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, said he contacted the Indiana Economic Development Corporation a few weeks ago and submitted Grissom Aeroplex as a contender for the facility.
“We think it’s a good fit,” he said. “But with a $10 billion investment coming from Boeing, there’s going to be some real competition coming from other states … But you can’t go after it unless you throw your name in the hat.”
Fifteen other states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Washington state, Alabama, California, Pennsylvania and Kansas, are also competing for the new facility.
According to documents obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Boeing wants to build the facility next to an airport with a 9,000-foot runway, have highway and road access for parts deliveries and a direct rail connection on a dedicated spur line. A nearby port capable of handling regular and oversized containers also is “desired.”
With a 12,500-foot runway at Grissom, 210 acres certified as “shovel ready,” direct access to U.S. 31 and a solid regional workforce, Tidd said the Miami County site should be a real contender.
There’s also Dean Baldwin Painting, a recently opened business at the aeroplex that paints and services airplanes in a renovated hangar. Tidd said the company is already painting 777 airplanes in its new facility, which makes the site even more appealing.
“All these factors make it a shoe-in, in my opinion,” he said.
Although Grissom Aeroplex has a lot going for it as a potential site, Tidd said he knows it will be tough to woo Boeing to the area.
“It’s going to be a very lucrative, but a very competitive project,” he said.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Indiana would be a logical site.
He said northwest Indiana meets all the road, rail, port and airport connections Boeing is seeking, the state has a strong manufacturing workforce and Purdue University is well known for its aeronautics programs.
Tidd said there are multiple sites in Indiana that would work for the facility, but Grissom Aeroplex should be given serious attention.
“I’m pulling for Grissom and our region, but even getting it to come to this state would be a huge asset,” he said. “Talk about a shot in the arm to this area, and the entire state.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @carsongerber1.