Erie Airport Authority OKs Germany Deal

Sep. 28--The Erie Municipal Airport Authority on Tuesday approved agreements that could make it a part-owner of the Cottbus-Drewitz Airport in eastern Germany.

Erie airport officials said that once the ownership of the airport is transferred to an Erie-based corporation, the deal will soon start to pay dividends in the form of increased revenue to the Erie airport and new opportunities for businesses in both Erie and Germany.

Erie International Airport officials and Erie Aviation Inc., an aircraft parts-and-repair business on airport property, set up a German corporation called Erie-Drewitz International, or EDI, in 2004 to acquire Cottbus-Drewitz -- a former East German military air base -- and develop it into a trade center and cargo hub.

The idea is to establish international trade centers at both airports; promote business opportunities and air cargo at both centers; and ultimately, to connect the airports with direct trans-Atlantic cargo flights.

EDI is scheduled to take over ownership and operation of the Germany airport on Dec. 15, Erie airport board members heard Tuesday. Authority members then moved to activate a subsidiary-limited liability corporation that would actually own the share of the German airport, and they also adopted a formal operating agreement with Erie Aviation, the parent company and sole owner of EDI.

"This was a critical step we took today," Erie International Airport Executive Director Kelly Fredericks said.

Fredericks and other Erie airport administrators will provide consulting and management services for the Cottbus-Drewitz Airport. Fredericks estimated those services alone could ultimately bring $500,000 a year in revenue to Erie International, although none of that revenue is being anticipated yet in the airport's 2006 budget.

Erie Municipal Airport Authority Chairman Lou Porreco called a closed-door executive session at the board's monthly meeting Tuesday to discuss last- minute contract negotiations. Board members then unanimously approved establishing the corporation -- called Erie International Airport Services LLC -- and adopted the operating agreement with Erie Aviation.

The airport authority is not permitted by law to own equity in another airport, but the board believes the limited liability corporation it formed can legally hold that equity share.

The agreement calls for Erie Services, the new corporation, to have a 20 percent share of however much of EDI that Erie Aviation owns after a stock offering in October 2006. The agreement also gives the airport the option of cashing out at the time of the stock offering.

A critical part of the plans to expand cargo and ultimately launch cargo flights to Germany is the 1,900-foot-long extension planned for the main runway at Erie International. Fredericks said the timetable still envisions environmental and regulatory clearance for the $53 million project coming in mid-October and a ceremonial groundbreaking soon after that.

That update was welcomed by Rubye Jenkins-Husband, Erie City Council's liaison to the airport board. "That extension is so desperately needed," she told the board. "We really are anxiously waiting for that approval."

Authority President Vance McBryde agreed. "This has been a six-year project, and we are finally getting to the point of putting a shovel in the ground," he said.


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