Monday, August 15, 2005 Diversity key for airport By Tessa Hill The East Mesa (AZ) Independent For Corrine Nystrom, the new Falcon Field Airport director, coming to Arizona meant coming to the land of opportunity for airport growth. "When I first came down here, and actually toured the field, I was pretty surprised that there was still so much land to be developed because this airport has been here since World War II and the layout of the airport has been here for many, many years," said Ms. Nystrom who took the post of airport director on Aug. 1. "A lot of airports in a similar situation, that land has been snatched up for years." As the former airport manager of Walker Field Airport in Grand Junction, Colo., Ms. Nystrom said she has always loved Arizona and jumped at the chance to relocate to Mesa and work for Falcon Field. One of two east Mesa airports, Falcon Field is located at Higley and McKellips roads. "I wasn't out looking, but when I saw this, I said this is something I'd like to do long-term. I'd been at Walker Field for 19 years and I felt like I had accomplished a lot of the things I had originally set my sights on," Ms. Nystrom said. As airport manager, Ms. Nystrom said she is responsible for keeping airport operations safe and secure and maintaining tenant agreements, but cites east Mesa's airport community is different than most airports across the country. "Coming in as an airport director, you basically maintain and make sure everything moves along. But what was exciting for me here was that there was so much opportunity for development that would economically benefit the community," Ms. Nystrom said. Although initially surprised at the amount of undeveloped airport land, Ms. Nystrom said the city has done a good job at planning ahead and making sure the right development occurs at the right time. "I look at it from the positive perspective of saying that the city of Mesa has basically made the decision that they're not going to do a knee-jerk-reaction development plan," Ms. Nystrom said. "When they do it, they want to do it right and sometimes that takes a while to do that and so I have to hand it to them for doing that." The 4-square-mile airport, which opened in 1941 as a training base for the British Royal Air Force during World War II, is home to about 900 aircraft, 30 aviation-related businesses and 50 commercial enterprises. According to the city Web site, the total economic impact of the airport was more than $866 million in 1998, providing about 16,600 jobs. But demand for the airport's 413 hangars is higher than ever, with a waiting list of more than 800. In addressing this issue, Ms. Nystrom said she's already been busy working alongside airport personnel drafting design plans for new airport developments. "We clearly have the demand for more hangar space and so that's something we're in the process of trying to get the design pulled together to respond to that, as well as setting aside those properties that we may want to look at developing in other ways," Ms. Nystrom said. "We're in the process now of actually sitting down and doing some nuts and bolts design concepts to try to address that issue." The developments under review for the airport include large corporate hangars, mixed-use and commercial facilities and operations that will benefit airport users and the nearby community, according to Ms. Nystrom. The airport's northwest corner at Greenfield and McKellips roads and the south side of the airport are under review for future development, as well as plans for additional ramp space on the north side planned to be completed by early 2006, Ms. Nystrom said. "Clearly, having some diversity on your airport is a good thing and the reason for that is you have various parts of the aviation industry that go through their peaks and valleys, so if you have some diversity on your airport then if one segment of the industry is kind of struggling, then you can rely upon that other segment to help pull you through and vice versa," Ms. Nystrom said. District 5 Councilman Rex Griswold said when sitting in on Ms. Nystrom's final interview for the position, he was impressed with her economic development background and was pleased to hear she was selected for the position. "We needed someone with a lot of economic development and leasing experience as well as aviation background," Councilman Griswold said. "She fits the bill." Councilman Griswold added that Ms. Nystrom's experience dealing with neighbors and neighborhood issues is also a plus. "She has experience dealing with neighbors and the airport area is building so much with the addition of the 202 freeway, that will be a real benefit," he said. But with several developments on the fence, Councilman Griswold said she has a big job to do. "She's gonna have to get up to speed quickly. There are people who are looking to invest and need answers quickly," he added. But Falcon Field isn't the only east Mesa airport planning for development. With Williams Gateway Airport nearby in southeast Mesa, Ms. Nystrom said what might be seen as a competitive situation by some is actually a benefit for the city. "Well actually they are both, in my opinion, in a growth mode, but they're two different types of airports which is beautiful," Ms. Nystrom said. "It's the best of both worlds for the city of Mesa to have Williams Gateway that is focusing on the larger commercial operations, the passenger service and the cargo and Falcon is more directed towards the smaller, general aviation, which is basically private, corporate operations." While WGA complements Falcon Field, Ms. Nystrom said the Valley's other airports pose a challenge to the airport's development. "A lot of the challenges that I see are that we have a number of other airports here in the Valley and as those airports continue to grow and develop, it's important that Falcon stays on the leading edge and be the premiere general aviation airport in the Valley," Ms. Nystrom said. Ms. Nystrom said her experiences at Walker Field produced a "plan ahead" approach she will utilize at Falcon Field. "Plan ahead and once you have your plan in place, stick to it unless something really unusual comes along. If you don't, then you'll be playing catch up later on and saying 'oh why did we do that and why didn't we plan ahead,'" Ms. Nystrom said. Louis Yates, director of the Falcon Field Area Alliance, a business resource group that serves the Falcon Field Business District, said she agreed with Ms. Nystrom's plan ahead approach. "As area land becomes less available, it will become more attractive and there will be more demand," Ms. Yates said. "It's important we have a master plan so potential businesses can feel comfortable with the direction the airport wants to take." Ms. Yates said with the last airport's master plan drafted in the early 1990s, she feels an update is necessary. "I think people interested in going in a general aviation airport have been interested in Falcon, but now all bets are off because of the new freeway," Ms. Yates said. "Now with the freeway, this is a realistic option for the whole Valley." With a big job on her shoulders, Ms. Nystrom said she's going to stay focused on airport safety and economic development and will plan the area with a famous man's words in her mind. "Will Rogers once said 'there's no new real estate being developed on this earth, so you've got to use what you've got and use it to the highest and best use' and I think that's what they've been doing," she said. For more information on Falcon Field Airport, visit www.cityofmesa.org, click on "Departments and divisions" and follow the "Falcon Field Airport" link. Attached Photo: Corrine Nystrom is the new director of Falcon Field Airport in east Mesa. Ms. Nystrom was the airport manager at Walker Field Airport in Grand Junction, Colo., for nine years.