Tenants Key to Development
Plattsburgh’s anchor tenant thus far has been the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Airport manager Sorrell says DHS uses the airport as the base for its northeast operations, spanning from the New Jersey border to Maine. “One of the advantages that (DHS) liked about Plattsburgh is that we are really close to Lake Champlain and they can monitor the waterway up into Montreal,” Sorrell says.
Along with DHS, Plattsburgh International has some 80 tenants, including:
- Pratt & Whitney, which has an engine-testing site inside the fence;
- the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has a mobile laboratory to test items coming across the border;
- the Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institution;
- Clinton Community College;
- Exelon Powerlabs; and
- Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
In total, the airport now employs more people than when the Air Force was here.
“There is plenty of industrial space,” says Sorrell about the possibilities for current and future tenants to develop. “And there’s not an airplane in the world that we can’t handle.”
One prospective industrial client Kurtz says that PBG is currently working with is the start-up company Laurentian Aerospace. The two have been working together for nearly a year and the plan calls for Laurentian to service ‘C’ and ‘D’ checks for wide-body aircraft. Laurentian is currently in the final stages of getting financing and expects to break ground soon, she says.
Laurentian Aerospace Corpora-tion’s building will be a state-of-the-art maintenance/repair/overhaul (MRO) facility, offering heavy maintenance for wide-body aircraft. Its two-bay hangar — approximately 224,000 square feet and capable of servicing everything but the A-380 — is planned to open in the fall of 2008 and will stand 110 feet tall.
Kurtz is optimistic that by handling wide-body aircraft for Laurentian, other airlines may be attracted by the airport’s familiarity with large aircraft operations on the ramp.
“We know that when Laurentian is here, we’re going to get wide-bodies and there aren’t many small towns and cities that have an airport that needs the GSE (ground support equipment) support for big aircraft,” Kurtz says.
“There is a financial commitment to make sure that the ground service equipment can support what we know is going to happen. We are confident that we will have [wide-body aircraft] flying in here for maintenance and we have to prepare for that.”
Because of the success PBG is having with its industrial clients, the airport is already operating in the black. “[That] is empowering and helps support the additional manpower and provide infrastructure,” Kurtz says. “It enables us to have low landing fees and a reasonable fuel flowage fee…
“We have an industrial airport right now that gives us the ability to be patient about development. If the community saw the airport as a financial drain, and they didn’t know at what point that might turn around, that would be a problem.”
Air service; getting an FBO
Despite the positive growth at the airport, it has had some issues attracing a fixed base operation (FBO), and passenger services haven’t taken off as fast as planned.
In August, SheltAir Aviation Services, based at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, announced it had entered an agreement with Clinton County to provide FBO services.
In a release, Ed Zwirn, COO of SheltAir, comments that the airport’s location — one hour south of Montreal and near a major Interstate — and the support the airport has received on both the local and federal level make Plattsburgh a prime location for SheltAir.
The airport had reportedly been in discussions with both Aero Toy Store and Million Air, but an agreement was not reached with either.
Kurtz and Sorrell anticipate that the initial passenger growth will come from low-cost airlines that fly direct to vacation destinations, which, according to Kurtz, is something that there is an enormous demand for in Canada. She predicts that within a year, there will be at least two new destinations served.
PBG is also working with Canadian tour businesses to offer charter flights that they can accommodate immediately, she says. “A low cost carrier that goes to multiple locations would be very attractive,” Kurtz says. “JetBlue and Southwest are both attractive to us.”
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