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Emanuel Announces $200M Cargo Center At O’Hare

Artist rendering of what a new cargo facility will look like at O'Hare International Airport. (handout)

Artist rendering of what a new cargo facility will look like at O’Hare International Airport. (handout)

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Updated 05/14/12 – 2:21 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced a $200 million deal to build a massive cargo center at O’Hare International Airport, a project set into motion by former Mayor Richard M. Daley more than 15 years ago.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, when the city of Chicago bought more than 300 acres of what used to be the military side of O’Hare International Airport in the 1990s, then-Mayor Daley talked of major commercial development. But the land has laid fallow, with Daley unable to develop the land as the economy went south after the city purchased the land.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

On Monday, Emanuel announced an agreement with developer Aeroterm LLC to build a massive cargo center on 65 acres of that property, but the would rather not discuss what took so long to develop the site.

“Because we are building out … a runway that will be open in 2013, that can handle the big big air cargo and commuter traffic … this is the perfect time to make an investment in the cargo capacity,” Emanuel said. “There was no doubt a vision in ’96 when the land was bought, but we’ve brought this to culmination with a strategy laid out in the economic blueprint for the city of Chicago.”

The mayor said he believes the time is ripe to develop the site to build a new cargo facility at O’Hare.

“This was the time to actually take it off the shelf, and freshen it up, because it’s core to our economic strategy as a city, both on exports, infrastructure, and the human capacity,” Emanuel said. “Aeroterm wouldn’t do this if they didn’t see the potential in the markets in the future.”

The project will be funded by a $130 million investment from Aeroterm, and more than $62 million in airport funds.

The Emanuel administration says the project would create 1,200 construction jobs and 1,200 permanent jobs on-site. The project is expected to support an additional 10,000 ancillary jobs later and provide $600 million in economic benefits to the airport.

The developer has also agreed to create a job-training program to teach students various aviation skills and prepare them for careers in the industry.

Aeroterm’s lease agreement for the project must be approved by the City Council.