Tulsa Airport Seeks Plan to Aid Growing Firms

Aerospace companies at Tulsa International Airport are outgrowing their industrial facilities, and officials say a comprehensive development plan is needed to ensure their wide-ranging needs can be met.

Oct. 28--Aerospace companies at Tulsa International Airport are outgrowing their industrial facilities, and officials say a comprehensive development plan is needed to ensure their wide-ranging needs can be met.

American Airlines is attracting third-party maintenance work to its Tulsa Maintenance & Engineering Center, and it needs additional hangar space.

Spirit AeroSystems Inc., which builds wing components for Boeing commercial aircraft and the military in 1.6 million square feet of manufacturing space, anticipates it could double its business within two years, executives say.

And AirWorks, a division of a Los Angeles-based security firm that modifies aircraft in an 80,000-square-foot hangar it opened last week on the west side of Tulsa International, already is looking for a larger facility.

"As I continue to expand my services, I'm going to continue to grow," said AirWorks President Ricky Frick. "The ability to utilize Tulsa for this project provides us with a springboard from which to develop additional opportunities in a rapidly expanding $12 billion market for aircraft modifications."

Although the anemic financial condition of the airlines is attracting headlines, the hum of activity at the airport indicates the aerospace industry as a whole is making a comeback from its post-Sept. 11 slide.

Expansion plans of the companies that employ 12,000 people at the airport, as well as those of the 200 Tulsa-area companies with which they do business, is creating a facilities gap.

Now, staff and trustees of the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust are proposing to attack the aircraft manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul plant shortfall with a comprehensive plan.

Trustees are asking companies to submit -- by December -- qualifications to serve as a master developer for an 800-acre aerospace industrial park at Tulsa International. Airport staff will hold a briefing at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Room A211 of the passenger terminal for companies or individuals interested in submitting a response to TAIT's request for qualifications.

"TAIT feels that a third-party developer with the necessary background and experience, and given the appropriate information, would have a high likelihood of being successful," TAIT says in its request for qualifications on its Web site at www.tulsaairports.com [http://www.tulsaairports.com].

"There is both a short-term and a long-term need for aircraft hangar space, office space, warehouse and support facilities for existing and future aerospace companies in the Tulsa area. TAIT has approximately 250 acres of property that can be developed with taxiway access and 440 acres of property available adjacent to the airfield facilities. . . . This property is available for a developer to construct facilities to meet the needs of the aerospace tenants."

Carl Remus, deputy airport director of finance and administration, said the ideal master developer candidate would be someone with aerospace development and business incubator experience.

"We would lease them the land and let the developer handle everything else," Remus said.

Developing industrial parks for use by a particular industry or industry clusters isn't new.

In 1998, the city of Albuquerque, N.M., began construction of the Sandia Science and Technology Park. The idea was to attract high-tech businesses to build there, making it easier for them to partner with research and development institutions.

Another Oklahoma aerospace industrial park, this one for military aircraft, is on the drawing boards in Oklahoma City. Battelle Oklahoma, a subsidiary of Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute, proposes to construct the Oklahoma Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Technology Center on 370 acres east of Tinker Air Force Base.

Battelle Oklahoma is under contract with the Oklahoma Industrial Authority to develop, build and manage the technology center, said Battelle Vice President Chip Carter.

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