Avports Revisited

Officials say teaming up with new parent AFCO expands 'the credential'


Some 80 years ago, it was named Pan Am World Services, a division of Pan American Airlines that provided airport managment services under contract — the U.S. version of privatization. Then came new ownership with Johnson Controls, followed by American Port Services, which gave it the Avports label. Recently the company and the name — and seven airport management contracts — were sold by Macquarie Aviation North America, which also owns the Atlantic Aviation chain. The new owner, Aviation Facilities Company (AFCO) of McClean, VA, is seen as a ‘strategic owner’ by Charles V. Stipancic, Jr., executive vice president and COO of AFCO, and John Harden, vice president and COO of AFCO AvPORTS Management LLC. Together, they say, the companies can offer both management and development capabilities to airports.

Avports’ seven management contracts are at Albany, Stewart, Republic, and Westchester County in New York; Atlantic City and Teterboro, New Jersey; and, New Haven, Connecticut.

AFCO, started in 1992, is a real estate firm specializing in airport development, from financing to hangars to cargo, and operates some eight million square feet of facilities and aircraft aprons at 29 airports in the U.S. and the U.K. It is also overseeing the construction of the new privately funded airport in Branson, MO.

Stipancic and Harden recently discussed the new partnership with AIRPORT BUSINESS. Here are some edited excerpts ...

AIRPORT BUSINESS: John, how has the company changed, if at all, since you started there in 1982?

Harden: It almost is the same company. The thing I’ve enjoyed with this company is that with all the changes the culture of the company has been sustained. The management team has stayed in place; all employees have stayed in place under all these transactions.

But of course, we’re constantly growing our credential. We’ve added on a couple of strategic projects that have made us notable beyond previous levels. Now we’re aligned with a strategic owner who understands the challenges and the opportunities that we face day to day.

We’ve landed in the past few years two contracts to manage small hub airports at Albany International in 2006 and Stewart International last year. We’re now competing for a longer term contract there.

On January 1 we were fortunate to get appointed to manage the maintenance functions at Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport. We’re overseeing all the contractors that maintain that 600,000-square foot terminal.

We’re moving the credential. If you look at the landscape that AFCO has at 29 airports, at hub airports, we’re talking about a very substantial company that can move into new projects.

This is seen as an acquisition with sustainability. They’ve come into this with the idea that we’re blending two complementary credentials and we’re doing it for the long term. We’re not looking to leverage the value and sell it off at some point. Ours is a long-term relationship. That’s a mindset that’s important.

AB: What does Avports bring to the AFCO table?

Stipancic: What was appealing to us is you had a company that is very rich in history, has been around since the Pan Am days; it’s extremely well run and profitable. From a strategic standpoint, what we have with AFCO is primarily a development company focused on aviation. Avports is more of an operational company. So, you marry the development with the operations. We think it fits nicely together.

It’s an opportunity for us to assist the airports that they manage with potential development opportunities, whether it’s terminals or runways or cargo buildings. Vice versa, where we have facilities at airports it gives us an opportunity to sell the management capabilities of Avports. We’re jointly on the prowl for new airport opportunities, whether it’s development and/or management.

We can do soup to nuts; or we can do pieces. We can offer a full range of services, from the financing to development and design, construction, marketing, to leasing and property management, and now the operational aspect as well.

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