In his current position one year, Hix says this is where he wanted to be and that his history of working with cities, along with being with Lone Star Gas through which he worked with cities as well, gave him a background that fits with what the city seeks to do with its airport.
Says Hix, “So my entire career was focused either directly or indirectly in local government administration. I had continued to move further away from direct local government involvement, and that’s what I wanted to do with the balance of my career.
“It was definitely a thought-out decision to bring me into this position. The reason is, what we’re faced with here is really a 734-acre aviation industrial park — happens to be a runway here.
“The real growth and the development of the airport as an economic engine for the city is associated with our aviation industry development.
“That means a lot of infrastructure improvements. My background with Lone Star Gas in community services was economic development. As a public administrator I worked in the city organization, in a department of the city. And I’ve had experience working with tenants. We do ground leases, and then our tenants make the investment in the vertical construction of hangars or business facilities.
“The responsibilities of the airport deal a lot with areas that are similar to city management.”
Much of that background will be focused on future infrastructure improvements and marketing the airport to industry. To wit, Hix and the airport have been promoting the facility’s capabilities to the audience at the annual National Business Aviation Association convention. Observes Hix, “I attended my first NBAA this past year and I’ll tell you what I did discover. The way we participate is through our local development organization, which is coordinated with the North Texas Commission. We go up there with some other general aviation airports, all working through the North Texas Commission.
“I realized that our major aviation industry here on the airport was represented there as vendors. There were hundreds of suppliers, even this year, of goods and services that were courting our industries to become vendors to them. Well, out of that same group, there may be some that need to expand their businesses right here. It’s a significant economic development opportunity.”
Expanding the footprint
Hix relates that his biggest challenge at present is to get through the immediate improvements, which he says will be a “tremendous step forward”, not only in improving the safety and security of the airport, but it will afford the airport the opportunity to market the next level of service.
Explains Hix, “The challenge is managing all that infrastructure improvement. We along with other general aviation airports are faced with the challenge of increased federal regulation. TSA [Transportation Security Administration] is focusing on security at general aviation airports. That’s going to be a huge challenge to us.
“It’s one of those things where the more you jump up and down and say ‘Hey, here we are’ the more you’re recognized as a place that could become a poster child for new regulations. “
One of the immediate improvements is the installation of a gated perimeter security fence, which Hix sees as critical to attracting higher end corporate-related companies and flight activity. It’s also a step toward attempting to get ahead of possible TSA scrutiny in the future.
Says Hix, “It’s to try and get ahead of the curve, yes. But it’s more than trying to get ahead of anticipated regulations; security is one of our major missions of service here. Look around this airport and you can see hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. Part of what we feel obligated to provide is security; safety of operations; and unprecedented service to our general aviation users, be they individual pilots or corporate airplanes.”
The airport has constructed a parallel taxiway to facilitate access, and is in the process of a 2,035-foot taxiway extension, which will open up an additional 34 acres for hangar and business development.
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