A No. 1 Partner: Award winner Fred Krum on marketing, airport/tenant relations, industry issues

July 8, 2004

Inside the Industry

A No. 1 Partner

Award winner Fred Krum on marketing, airport/tenant relations, industry issues

July 2004

LAS VEGAS — During this year’s Aviation IndustryWeek and convention of the National Air Transportation Association,Akron-Canton (OH) Airport manager Fred Krum was given the 2004 NATAAirport Partnership Award, which is sponsored by AIRPORT BUSINESS.The award is intended to recognize an airport official who helps foster good relations with tenants. Afterwards, Krum sat down to discuss airport/tenant relations and other issues facing the industry. Here are selected excerpts.

On his philosophy related to airports and tenants ...

“For me it’s just basic common sense. The airport is about service to the community, to the business community that needs everything that we do. And the people that provide that are not the airports. We provide the runways and the taxiways, but the people who do that are the FBOs, charter companies, and others. The government by definition should be the facilitator of those services.

“We take that to heart. Without these businesses, we’re just a bunch of paved strips with nothing going on.”

On the tenants at his airport ...

“We do have a wonderful array of tenants, who are just good businesspeople; no funny business. They provide a great product. Why wouldn’t you want to work with this group of people?

“I’m a part of a great airport community.”

On when does an airport have too many FBOs, as a third prepares to come to Akron-Canton ...

“There’s no one cookie-cutter approach. You have to look at your airport, your market.

“And there are FBOs that place their emphasis on different things. We had one FBO that was heavily into maintenance. The owner sold that business and the new owners took it a non-FBO way.

“We think three is probably the number for our airport and our market, and based on the concepts of what the people are doing. The third FBO, Castle Aviation, is an entity that’s already on the field and already doing about 90 percent of what an FBO does. Now it has fuel.”

On the value of minimum standards to his airport ...

“You cannot run an airport without minimum standards; that’s for sure. You set those high enough so people can’t just come in and cherry pick. Same thing with corporate self-fueling: You have to own your own hangar; it has to be a certain size; you have to have over 1,000 gallons [a month] in need; you cannot be a subtenant of someone. You can be here and get all the privileges that go with it, but you’re going to have to invest in this airport.”

On the ongoing growth of airline service at Akron-Canton, led by AirTran Airways ...

“It’s going gangbusters on all sides. On the commercial aviation side we’re one of the fastest growing in the country. AirTran is adding Boston service. We’ve caught that wave of this low-cost carrier explosion and have a real player with AirTran Airways. Our focus is on growing with the existing players.

“Our general aviation business continues very strong. We have a long heritage in general aviation and we are going to maintain that, to keep in that business.

“Our airfield has a dual mission: it’s for commercial and general aviation. Both of those entities serve the community.”

On what he tells others who want advice on how to attract airlines ...

“ First of all, let me say that I’ve been on the other end of the coin more than on the upside.

“What you have to do is just keep knocking on the doors. We just got New York service last year. We’ve been trying to get New York service for the 29 years that I’ve been here. Afterwards someone asked if I had ever thought of giving up. I said, ‘I’m not paid to give up.’”

On the importance of a serious marketing program ...

“We didn’t have one eight years ago. We hired a marketing director; she now has an assistant. Our budget has grown from $30,000 per year to almost $1 million a year.

“Marketing does two things. One is awareness; and I also think it’s just strategically positioning yourself as an entity. Everything you do is part of marketing — having clean restrooms is part of marketing.

“It is so much harder today but so necessary to get through to people, to reach people. They have so many different channels of information coming at them.

“You have to invest heavily into it and look at it as an investment. If you have a marketing program, commit to it for five years, then see if you’re starting to get some payoffs.”

On the growing expectation of airlines to get marketing support from communities ...

“Today, just about every carrier that comes into a market is looking for some type of assistance, whether it be a moratorium on fees for six months to help with start-up costs or, in our case, we become a total marketing partner for you when you come into our market.

“We develop the campaign. We usually pay for it; execute it; and then we continue the maintenance of it. We make sure your planes are full.

“We know that when that airline comes in that they have to be profitable, and we have to make it work. We have a philosophy now that we go out and scorch and burn the earth in terms of getting that message out to the public.”