Saturday, February 27, 1999

Small airports cater to business


Suburbs fuel expansions

BY STEVE KEMME
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[airport]
Hamilton-Fairfield Airport lengthened and widened its runway last year and built a new taxiway.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Local airports are riding the coattails of the business boom that's taking place in Butler, Warren and Clermont counties.

        The airports in those three counties, as well as Cincinnati-owned Lunken Airport, are expanding and, like the areas they serve, have plans to continue growing. Business people who use them say they are a convenient, lower-stress alternative to large, international airports, and help give them a competitive advantage.

        And the airports are eagerly touting those assets to lure more corporate aircraft business.

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        “We're in a good position to serve a lot of the new business development in Union Township and Hamilton's new industrial park,” said Doug Hammon, manager of the Hamilton-Fairfield Airport. “We think this airport will be able to thrive and be a corporate center for this area.”

        Business growth and airport expansion seem to feed off each other. Public officials believe the expansions will not only benefit the airports financially, but also will help communities recruit businesses.

        The four men who bought the Warren County Airport near Lebanon three years ago spent $1.5 million last year on improvements, including new hangars, a 24-hour automated fuel system, pavement and new signs.

        “A lot of different businesses like to have a local airport at their disposal,” said Bob Craig, a Warren County regional planner.

        “An airport is certainly a useful recruiting tool,” said David Spinney, assistant Clermont County administrator.

        The expansion of general aviation airports in Greater Cincinnati to obtain more corporate business reflects a statewide trend, said Jane McIntire, manager of the Ohio Department of Transportation's aviation program.

        “Certainly, corporate business is where the money is, in terms of selling fuel to the larger corporate aircraft,” she said. “That's one of the big revenue generators at most of the smaller county airports.”

        There has been plenty of activity to boost growth at the airports. During the past six years, Butler County has counted 206 commercial and industrial development projects; Warren County, 109; Clermont County, 82, and Hamilton County, 400, according to the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

        Those figures include only projects that are $1 million or more in value, created 50 or more jobs or added at least 20,000 square feet of floor space.

        For some business and casual travelers, the general aviation airports can be time- and money-saving alternatives to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Dayton International Airport.

        Balke Veneer, a hardwood veneer manufacturer in Fairfield, has been using the Hamilton-Fairfield Airport for more than 20 years.

        “The airport is less than a mile from our facility,” said Roger Ollila, the company's controller. “So the savings in time is phenomenal compared to flying out of (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky) or Lunken.”

        Aeroserv Inc., a Lebanon company that manufactures components for the aerospace and auto industries, has a twin-engine plane based at the Warren County Airport.

        “Having our corporate aircraft only minutes from our plant gives us an edge on our competition by allowing us to meet face-to-face with our customers in the most cost-effective and timely manner,” said Steve Michael, Aeroserv president.

        The drive for growth has fostered competition among the local general aviation airports. But airport operators believe each airport has its own niche.

        “We're not trying to put anybody out of business,” Mr. Hammon said. “If we're all doing well, it means that aviation is doing well.”

Airport projects in Greater Cincinnati
- Small airports cater to business



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