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"Non-aviation growth eyed by JAA, but more air flights and jobs, too"
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Non-aviation growth eyed by JAA, but more air flights and jobs, too
JAA celebrates past 10 years by looking ahead.
BY KELLY JORDAN
The Jacksonville (FL) Times-Union
Jacksonville's airports will offer more international flights, employ tens
of thousands more people, pump billions more into the economy and become
Florida's leading aerospace centers during the next decade and beyond,
aviation officials said on Monday.
At least that's what the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is shooting for,
its leaders said during a board meeting and press conference held to
celebrate the agency's 10th birthday.
Plans are to develop some airport properties for use by non-aviation firms
while also expanding taxiways and building more hangars and other facilities
to attract more aerospace companies, JAA Chairman Chester Aikens said.
The state spun JAA off from JaxPort in October 2001 to separate the city's
aviation and seaport functions.
The authority operates Jacksonville International, Cecil, Jacksonville
Executive at Craig and Herlong airports. They provide close to 30,000
aviation-related jobs with a payroll nearing $954 million, with a total
economic impact of $2.9 billion, Aikens said.
The goal is to build on that momentum, JAA Director and CEO Steve Grossman
JetBlue's existing flight to Puerto Rico is enjoying about 90 percent
occupancy and is fueling efforts to convince airlines to open routes to more
destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America, Grossman said.
In addition to eventually building a third concourse at JIA, the authority
will begin construction in the next year on roads and taxiways to open the
east side of Cecil Airport for business. Construction on two new hangars
will also begin at Cecil this year.
The authority recently struck a deal worth $70,000 with the Jacksonville
Jaguars. In exchange for allowing the Jaguars to design and decorate the
main information stand at JIA, the airport is running ads on monitors and in
other parts of EverBank Field.
JAA's tactics are part of a national trend among airports to court large
aerospace firms and non-aviation companies to its properties, said Debby
McElroy, executive vice president of the Airports Council International.
Diversifying sources of revenue enables airports to keep down the fees it
charges airlines, which in turns keeps airfares low and flights up, McElroy
said. It's critical that airports be financially creative in a lagging
economy that sees airlines cutting flights, she said.
Another challenge for the authority is explaining to Northeast Floridians
what it is, Grossman said. Recent focus group research revealed most
citizens think the authority operates JIA and just one other airport.
"Many think it's Jacksonville Naval Air Station," Grossman said.
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