Firm Plans 53-Acre Development at Baton Rouge Metro Airport, Could Total $183 Million

Dec. 14, 2022

Dec. 14—A Colorado-based firm has started work on a 53-acre development at Baton Rouge Metro Airport that could represent an investment of up to $183 million and make the airport a hub for air cargo and aviation-related activities.

Burrell Aviation signed a long-term lease for the land in the airport's Aviation Business Park and has started pre-development work on the site, said CEO John Carver.

While engineering and entitlement work is being done, a "very concentrated business development effort" is underway to attract companies that would be interested in build-to-suit space at the airport, Carver said.

A number of groups are being targeted as potential tenants at the airport, including air freight firms, aerospace and defense companies, cold storage businesses, logistics and aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul.

"We already had one party come up to us talking about the facility and the shovel at the groundbreaking still had dirt on it," he said.

Burrell Aviation has property at nine airports, including Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport in Florida, City of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport and Albuquerque International Sunport.

Roger Wilson, chief strategy officer for the Burrell Group, said the company sees the explosive growth of e-commerce as an opportunity for regional airports near population centers. Unlike major airports such as Louis Armstrong International Airport, these airports have the space and capacity to capitalize on the flow of goods.

Baton Rouge was an ideal candidate because of the airport's proximity to the interstate, railroads and ports, Wilson said.

The company is working with a number of national partners on the Baton Rouge project, including cargo handler Alliance Ground International, Lemartec Construction and Cushman and Wakefield real estate

The goal is to shave about 24 months off the timeline from identifying land to building an air cargo facility or hanger. That means instead of opening the property in 2028, it could be ready in 2026, Carver said.

E-commerce exploded during the COVID pandemic, as people relied on online retailers like Amazon for their shopping needs and companies such as UPS and FedEx handled more packages.

While the business has cooled off, Carver said, e-commerce is expected to start growing again, from a bigger post-COVID base. Airplane manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus are seeing increased demand for new cargo aircraft, he said.

"We're expecting in two years, the cycle will begin to rise again and our timing will be perfect for the Baton Rouge facility," Carver said.

The work is expected to create between 900 and 1,500 permanent jobs, with average annual salaries of $60,000, plus benefits.

Mike Edwards, director of aviation for Baton Rouge Metro, said the deal with Burrell Aviation "puts a spotlight on Baton Rouge". While the airport has attended conferences and courted the air cargo business, Burrell and its partners have industry contacts and network of properties.

"They'll be able to deliver a product much faster than through the traditional public process," he said.


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