Streamlining the Process

Streamlining The Process Bush Intercontinental undergoes a $3.1 billion capacity enhancement with relative ease By John Boyce, Contributing Editor Richard Vacar, A.A.E., director, Houston Airport System September 2001 HOUSTON...

Marketing Lessons Learned
Airport officials embark on exporting their trade while promoting their own airport and city in the global marketplace

HOUSTON — The Houston City Council recently gave its approval for Houston Airport System’s Airport Development Corporation to get into the aviation consulting business.
According to Hoyt Brown, deputy director for marketing at HAS, Houston would become an operating advisory consultant should the Toronto Airport Development Consor-tium win the bid to enhance operations at the existing Quito, Ecuador, airport and the development of a proposed new airport in the Central American city.
"We would be a party to Toronto ADC’s operation...." Brown says. "We think that is a far-reaching kind of business development, not only for promoting international trade for the fourth largest city (Houston) in the U.S., which has global ties from energy to space to other aspects of our trade, but we think it’s a good marketing tool for the airport system and our efforts to continue to develop air service both in quality and quantity to points of the world."
Houston currently has a related activity in place. It conducts an African airports training program and is about to start one for Latin America. Participants travel to Houston for two- or three-day sessions covering all manner of subjects pertaining to the operation of an airport.
"The training is designed to cover traditional aspects of airport operations,’’ Brown says. "We get into some of our planning and design and construction basics. We also show them how we do concessions, how we do rentals, how we do taxis, how we do air fire rescue; the things we take for granted. We talk about our marketing, our air service development. This is very intriguing, very fresh, and very good stuff for many areas of the world."

According to McLemore, wetlands mitigation is a structured process: If you’re building project impacts wetlands, you have to create or mitigate those wetlands at equal or greater value at a different location or through some other method such as wetland credits. "For every acre impacted at Bush," McLemore explains, "we would have been required to do three to seven acres somewhere else." (A subsequent Supreme Court ruling changed how wetlands are delineated. That ruling would have meant that HAS could have created far less wetlands, but officials, for financial and environmental/political reasons, decided to create the original, greater amount of wetlands.)
Fortunately, HAS already owned the "somewhere else." In 1986, Houston aviation officials purchased a 1,432-acre tract of land some 35 miles west of the city and in adjoining Waller County for the purpose of building a GA reliever airport. However, a series of environmental and political concerns nixed the plans.
It was a natural choice for wetlands mitigation for Bush and the airport proposed it and the Corps of Engineers approved it.
The tract of land sits in what is known as the Katy Prairie, an area long sought for preservation by such environmental groups as the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and the Katy Prairie Conservancy. Those and other such organizations — possible opponents to any development of the land — were delighted at the prospect of the creation of wetlands on the Prairie and immediately got behind the project.
"When we said we would mitigate on that land," McLemore says, "that made the environmentalists very happy and they worked hard with us. That alone saved us months in potential litigation and negotiation with the environmental community. They basically said, ’If you’ll give us this, we will not oppose your expansion at Bush.’
"To show the breadth of the environmentalists’ support, the people in Waller County opposed the FAA’s (record of decision) and we asked a court to come in as an intervener. In something that surprised the FAA and the court, the environmental community filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on our behalf and the FAA’s behalf. So if I had to say what the lynchpin of the whole EIS process was, that mitigation process would be it."
Because it wants to eventually build its own airport on the tract, Waller County has since filed suit against the record of decision, saying it was done in an arbitrary and capricious manner. It is also contemplating condemnation proceedings on the land. McLemore is confident that the HAS plan to start creating the wetlands, beginning in January of next year, won’t be blocked. However, if it should be, it would cause added cost and headache, but it wouldn’t stop the work at Bush. Another mitigation plan would have to be devised but construction will go on apace.

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