CHICAGO—The city is touting the success of a preliminary bid process of companies looking to lease Midway Airport, with 16 firms filing responses.

The request for proposals, sent out last month, allowed prospective bidders to formally express their interest in bidding on the agreement for Midway. City officials say they will use the responses to this RFQ to identify qualified potential bidders. The officials did not name the companies who responded to the bid.

Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott says in a statement that the response provides the City with a sense of the strong level of interest in a potential lease. “We must evaluate fully if this could be a win for Chicagoans and ensure that certain conditions and criteria are met, including a strong benefit to taxpayers and a Travelers' Bill of Rights,” she says. “The city’s process and approach will be thorough, open and in stark contrast to the lease deals of the past.”

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved the city’s preliminary application to a pilot program to investigate the privatization/lease of Midway Airport late last month. The city is contemplating a lease of the airport, the air travel option for Chicago after O’Hare International Airport, for fewer than 40 years. The proceeds will be used to pay off debt, and the city will retain ownership and receive a percentage fee that will grow over time.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has named a Midway Advisory Panel comprised of representatives from the City Council along with business, labor and civic leaders. The Panel will select an independent financial advisor to review all aspects of the transaction, including the competitive procurement process, key terms of the transaction, impact on labor and traveling public, and valuation. The Panel will deliver a written report prior to Council consideration and to present their report to the public.