Editorial: Retiring board chairman leaves impressive record at DuPage Airport Authority

  • The DuPage Airport Authority has seen a turnaround in recent years at the DuPage Business Center located south of the airport in West Chicago.

      The DuPage Airport Authority has seen a turnaround in recent years at the DuPage Business Center located south of the airport in West Chicago. Robert Sanchez | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted2/2/2022 1:00 AM

Stephen Davis officially stepped down Monday as chairman of the DuPage Airport Authority board, ending an impressive nine-year run during which he helped oversee the DuPage Airport in West Chicago.

Davis, the first African American in DuPage County history to lead the agency, took the reins in January 2013 after serving nearly nine years as an authority board member. He said at the time that he believed the airport was "poised for great things."

 

He was right.

Davis worked to ensure the authority, which levies roughly $5.9 million in property taxes, spent tax money wisely. He also sought to operate the airport, the third-busiest in Illinois, like a business.

The airport has developed new sources of revenue and remains debt-free. Prairie Landing Golf Club, a links-style course owned by the airport authority, has been improved, and golfers played more than 29,000 rounds there last year.

However, the most notable achievement was the dramatic turnaround of the DuPage Business Center near the airport.

The massive campus opened in 2006 on airport authority land south of Roosevelt Road. At the time, politicians and local leaders were confident it would attract high-tech companies. State officials had so much faith in the project that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity awarded a $34 million grant for roads, utilities and landscaping.

But the site -- initially called the DuPage National Technology Park -- struggled to find tenants and remained largely vacant for years.

Still, board members never gave up and charted a different course.

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The airport authority renamed the campus and relaxed development restrictions to allow more potential uses, including light manufacturing. Airport officials also got permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to sell land at the business park to users who would rather own -- and not lease -- their parcels.

Things started to take off in 2018 after the airport authority partnered with West Chicago and a commercial real estate firm.

Today, more than 360 acres of the business center are either developed or under development. The site also is home to an Amazon distribution center.

Mark Doles, executive director of the airport authority, recently told our Katlyn Smith that only 70 to 80 acres of the campus are still available.

A study released late last year by the Illinois Department of Transportation showed the airport contributed an estimated $1.5 billion to the local economy.

"Rest assured, I leave it in good hands, and I can say without a doubt that I leave it a little better than I found it," Davis said.

Mr. Davis, we wholeheartedly agree.

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