Explains Koch, “We spent about ten years trying to renegotiate with FAA at the airport — we were too close to the runway and needed to clear the site. We went through an eminent domain process for the land, and generated a more efficient and all-new facility that is spectacular. It set us up for a new 30-year term.” The new location includes a 30,000-sq.ft. hangar complex.
However, because of the growing popularity of the Hailey, ID region as a resort area, both in summer and winter, the community is exploring the concept of building an entirely new airport. “Local politicians have been advocating the building of a whole new airport way out in open space,” says Koch. “The current airport is 12 miles south of the primary resort, which is the primary reason for having the airport. And, if you move it another 20-30 miles south, now you’re 45 miles from the destination. We would certainly want to see Friedman Memorial Airport continue to develop. It has a great operating history.”
[In early February, it was reported that FAA has tentatively approved $50 million for design and construction of a proposed new airport to serve Sun Valley. The proposed airport with an 8,500-foot runway consists mostly of federal Bureau of Land Management property. The site is some 14 miles south of the existing airport. An environmental impact study is the next step.]
Next Step: Growth Through Acquisitions
According to Koch, the company anticipates growth through additional fixed wing air medical contracts, in which hospitals provide medical and Seven Bar provides flight services, and expanding the scope of the FBO business through acquisitions.
While at AMR Combs, Koch was involved in FBO acquisitions during the mid-90s. “There’s a top tier market, which was the one I spent a large portion of my career competing in,” he says. “That market has changed considerably from ten years ago, where it was really only a handful of big operators duking it out. Now, it’s a similar handful of large operators and a whole new group of private equity entrants who are trying to stake their claim in that top tier market. I call that a Top 100 FBO market, based on fuel volume.”
Koch says it’s the next tier of FBOs that fall into the Seven Bar acquisition model. “Our company’s growth will come by developing the current businesses, and acquisition of FBOs in similarly situated markets — medium to larger business and/or resort markets, primarily in the Western half of the U.S.
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