Oklahoma Airports Consider New Facilities, Business for Surrounding Land

Mar. 2--A boom in the aviation and aerospace industry is prompting commercial airports in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to try to cash in by developing land surrounding the airports.

Officials in both cities are considering development plans that would add hangar and retail space. Both cities are looking at plans where a developer could build facilities and manage the property while the airports retain ownership of the land.

In Oklahoma City, members of the airport trust last week approved a request for proposals that would allow developers to submit plans on how the nearly 8,000 acres around Will Rogers World Airport could be used to entice business growth.

"The main thing is the development that occurs has to be compatible and not hurt airport operations," said Mark Kranenburg, airports director for the Oklahoma City Airport Trust.

Under the proposal, a company would look at how much of the surrounding land could be used and the best use for it.

"We're in the development stage, but there is potential for the airport to generate economic development opportunities for the city," Kranenburg said.

The recent approval of a lease with a developer who plans to build a $13.6 million hangar for Maryland-based ARINC underscores the need for hangar space in Oklahoma City. The hangar, east of the airport, will allow ARINC to expand its Oklahoma City operations, and the facility is expected to add about 50 jobs to the area.

Development around the airport likely will capitalize on Oklahoma City's already established maintenance, repair and overhaul businesses. However, nonaviation uses may be considered for the land, Kranenburg said.

"Who knows? The sky's the limit," Kranenburg said. "Aviation is such a big industry in Oklahoma."

Dry cleaners and restaurants are among the features Tulsa officials would like to see built around their airport on 800 acres of undeveloped land. American Airlines Maintenance Center and Spirit Aerosystems are adjacent to the airport and collectively employ about 9,000 people.

In addition to amenities for workers, Tulsa is looking to expand hangar space, said Mary Smith, spokeswoman for Tulsa International Airport.

American and Spirit have both expressed a need for hangar space. Both companies are looking to take on additional third-party work. Spirit, which supplies wing components for Boeing, has seen its production increase as orders for Boeing's planes go up, said Don Carlisle, vice president and general manager of Spirit Aerosytems.

"It is the boom that's driving this," Smith said. "But we're also trying to look beyond the boom and get businesses that are related to maintenance, repair and overhaul."

Possible developments around the Tulsa airport also could include office space and a business incubator, she said.

"Aerospace is currently strong in Tulsa," Smith said. "There are so many employees out there and so few services."