Moving Past Air Service
Relying on air carrier revenues is no longer the option at Reno-Tahoe
John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
RENO — One day, the newspaper tells of FedEx upgrading one of its three daily 727 flights with an A-310. A few days later, it talks of American Airlines pulling out 17 daily flights. Welcome to Reno-Tahoe International, where in a few days the daily paper can tell the story of how well the airport is faring. And in Reno, little at the airport misses the daily news.
Reno is Vegas in a bowl, with mountains visible on all sides. But it is more down home — more historic Nevada; and, it is getting quite high tech. A short distribution hop from the Silicon Valley to the west, Reno is catching the eye of those in the high-tech world of e-commerce.
Looking out over the bowl, it is easy to see how those who live in Reno make Reno their focal point, for one can almost touch the horizon in any direction. In the middle of this vista stands Reno-Tahoe International Airport. It cannot help but be news.
Krys T. Bart, A.A.E., executive director for the Airport Authority of Washoe County, sets this stage during an interview to share what she came to when she arrived from San Jose in 1999, just as American was buying out Reno Air. It was an airport market that had traditionally viewed air carrier service as the end-all. That, Bart recognized, needed to change, and as she looked around she saw opportunities.
Growing Emphasis on Cargo
The greatest opportunity, says Bart, lies with cargo, which already was making a significant economic impact with service by most major haulers. "Cargo was the one area that really was not focused on before I got here," she explains. "Traffic has been historically gambling people and tourist markets related to the gaming. A diversification of the economy has occurred, but there really wasn't a preparation or a recognition for the other kind of aviation support that was needed. This became real apparent when the concern arose over the American-Reno Air issue, because as they were taking flights down and we were losing significant revenue, there was a need to find ways to make up for it."
Bart and her staff have been moving aggressively to change that, and are redeveloping the cargo infrastructure at the airport to accommodate the movement of freight on both airside and landside.
Explains Patricia Ryan, manager of business development and property administration for the airport, "We're working to identify who is coming into the marketplace and how the market is changing. It's moving from the emphasis on gaming to more industrial distribution."
According to Bart, one of the dynamics taking place is what she terms the "Silicon Valley phenomenon" — the movement of high-tech companies from the San Francisco-San Jose Bay Area to Reno. Logistically, she says, Reno offers highway access via Interstate 80, rail, airport facilities (runway capability, weather, etc.), and a state tax structure that encourages new business. It also offers a quality of life she calls better than the West Coast, with ten-minute commutes, a lower cost of living, international ski resorts, golfing, and Lake Tahoe just to the west.
"Cargo is a natural for Reno for several reasons," says Bart. "Logistically speaking, Reno has easy access to the West Coast and the East.
"Nevada is one of the least expensive states in the country to operate warehouses and distribution centers. So, we have become a mecca of warehousing and distribution, particularly for e-commerce. Amazon.com's distribution headquarters is here; Barnes & Noble is under construction right now; Microsoft's licensing division is here; we have Cisco Systems and a number of smaller companies.
"We also have big pharmeceutical distribution facilities here. But the big push now is on e-commerce."
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