The Liberty Gazette
January 13, 2009
January 13, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: We’d like to dole out kudos to towns that have demonstrated an understanding of the high value of aviation and its contribution to local communities. Vero Beach, Florida was in the news much of last year as they worked on a strategy to retain a valuable business, Piper Aircraft. The incentive package, a result of the combined efforts of the county and state, was enough to keep Piper from moving to Oklahoma City or Albuquerque, the two finalist cities vying for this 1,600-job employer. Piper began looking for better deals when they announced their new PiperJet, the kind of incentives commonly offered by communities that want aviation businesses.
Across the country, the city of Oceanside, California eagerly accepted a proposal by Airport Property Ventures to develop the airport during a 50-year lease, not unlike what we attempted to propose here. With the FAA’s backing that the airport should be developed and Oceanside’s pro-airport city council members, cooperation and teamwork are keys to their success.
Now that we’ve visited both coasts, let’s pick one from the middle: Branson, Missouri. The City of Branson gets a big fat kudos from us. They understand how to attract private development. The grand opening of their new privately financed, public use airport is May 8-10, 2009, and of course, there will be an air show featuring all the top performers (get your tickets now – www.bransonairshow.com). Branson Airport LLC is a business that invested millions of dollars in what some say has “the potential to redefine air travel.” Any time you open up the opportunity for profit you will find entrepreneurs willing to take a risk in something they believe in.
Linda: Nearby, in both the hill country and west of Houston, Ron Henrickson is busy building two public-use airports – with his own money. Houston Executive Airport opened last year, and we landed there to test out the smooth new runway. Construction is on-going and we expect to see lots of activity because of the cooperation between someone who had the vision, and all the necessary leaders, officials, and authorities who adopted that vision and helped make it happen. Bird’s Nest, an abandoned airport, is Henrickson’s second airport project, and he’s fast becoming a something of a hero to the good folks at TXDOT and to general aviation.
The Chief Operating Officer of the Houston Airport System was our guest speaker at last month’s Houston Aviation Alliance meeting. The Houston Airport System and its umbrella, Houston Airport Development Corporation, is the only U.S. group to build, operate, and manage airports in foreign countries. In addition to Bush, Hobby, and Ellington, they also operate airports in Toronto, Canada; Budapest, Hungary; and Quito, Ecuador, with two more planned in Costa Rica and possibly Columbia. The group also offers airport management and operations training in 100 locations around the world, including Africa, China, and Latin America, with a home facility at Texas A&M.
We’ll be devoting space to the Conroe Airport in the near future. After our tour there, we think you’ll be impressed to know how they got where they are today with no money. Until then, blue skies.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.