June 27--SOUTH BEND -- A new fixed-base operator could be opening at South Bend International in the next year.
The St. Joseph County Airport Authority board agreed Thursday morning to move toward a formal agreement with Corporate Wings, an aircraft management company. The company plans to invest $6.5 million in the project.
Corporate Wings would provide full concierge service for corporate jets and some functions for general aviation, said Mike Daigle, executive director at the airport. It also will have customer service personnel and provide hangar services.
The company, founded in 1981, began as an aircraft management and charter company. Today, it operates aircraft worldwide. It previously operated at the South Bend airport.
"I think that they will have the ability to reach out and draw new customers to South Bend," Daigle said, "and we will have not only the opportunity to showcase that facility, but our community and all it has to offer."
A lot of details still need to be worked out before a formal agreement can be reached, he said, explaining that it might take a month or two for the airport
and Corporate Wings to answer remaining questions and work through the rest of the paperwork.
"Our practices and policies may need to be amended," he said. "We will have two fixed-base operators on the airfield and we want both to be successful and provide first-class service."
Atlantic Aviation has been operating at the airport for a number of years.
Early Thursday, the city's Redevelopment Commission took action to help bring Corporate Wings to South Bend.
"Today we passed a milestone whereby the city and airport have agreed to work together to provide some paving infrastructure for our new FBO," Randall Jones, president and general manager for Corporate Wings, said in an email. "This step allows Corporate Wings to continue with our development plans."
The city of South Bend agreed to pitch in about $1.5 million in airport tax increment financing money to assist with infrastructure at the airport, including paving surface areas to provide increased parking for aircraft.
"Our investment is into the larger airport itself," said Chris Fielding, assistant executive director for South Bend's Department of Community Investment.
"Some of what we're doing is upgrades that will make it possible for Corporate Wings to store multiple jets in one location. But it's also improvements to the tarmac, the security, the fencing."
Fielding said the Corporate Wings operation will be located in the former DHL facility at the airport. It should be completed and operational in 12 months, and could cost about $10 million to $12 million overall, he added.
But the operation will be bringing multimillion dollar jets to South Bend. And that's a big deal, he said.
Businesses such as General Electric and Corporate Wings are noticing what is happening in South Bend and are willing to make investments here, he said. "These are not people who make investments in communities lightly. They're one of the largest owners of private jet charters in the world, so their entry in our market really indicates what they see for the future."
The city isn't just investing in this one project either, Fielding said, but in the long-term vitality of the airport.
"These upgrades have really needed to happen for several years at the airport," he said. "You should expect to see additional announcements coming out of the airport."
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