The Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority is hosting an open house Dec. 13 for the business community, but it isn’t the typical holiday party. The Business Journal emphasizes the importance of this gathering based on its reporting of significant expenditures — far past the frequented passenger concourses — to a two-year airport apron construction project slated to begin in spring 2018. It likely marks the first glimpse into the new airport master plan that will include non-aeronautical development.
Leadership positions at the airport have significantly changed the past year and a half, and both president and CEO Jim Gill and the recently named COO Alex Peric are at the forefront of building past general airport improvements and toward continued ability for the airport to sustain itself, even as the Kent County Board of Commissioners relinquished governance to the Airport Authority in 2016 (but still owns the airport property). The air gateway to the region has grown without taxpayer subsidies, and leaders continue to look at partnerships with business to maintain fiscal balances.
The new master plan for large-scale projects surrounding the main facility is significant. So, too, is the Airport Authority’s objective to meet with minority businesses Dec. 13 to assure opportunities to participate in upcoming projects. GRR officials also indicate the need for general operations services, from landscaping and printing to construction.
Peric took the GRFIA position this fall, coming from Allegheny County Airport Authority in Pittsburgh, where he most recently served as VP of business development and properties. Some of his achievements included leasing more than 3.5 million square feet of facilities, land development of 9,000 acres and the retention and recruitment of airlines. At the time, Gill noted, “he (Peric) has experience in all the areas where we are looking to grow — economic and business development, air service and operations.” The new master plan will guide airport leadership for 20-25 years. It likely will go to the board for approval by the end of 2018 and would “position the airport for more creative funding and economic development opportunities.”
The Right Place President Birgit Klohs, who also serves on the aeronautics board, told the Business Journal last year there are several “shovel-ready” tracts of land available for non-aeronautical development that the (new) executive director will be tasked with leasing. Klohs said diversifying revenue sources is among GFIA’s priorities in the coming years. She often emphasizes the economic development agency serves the entire region and certainly sees the development and advancement of GFIA as central to that effort.
The greater Grand Rapids business community should not overlook the significant opportunities — or the ripple effect.