Future growth of Cherry Capital Airport will depend partly on revenue from sources firmly grounded at street level, a recently completed strategic plan shows.
Increasing “non-aeronautical use” — the technical term for opening new businesses not directly related to air travel on airport property — will allow the airport to weather the rough times, said Airport Director Kevin Klein.
“Non-aeronautical use is very important to the airport, which was underscored by COVID,” Klein said. “Costco, for example, was a great tenant to have. They kept operating and continued to pay their bills.” Other non-aeronautical tenants include Bill Marsh, SERA automotive and Traverse City Light and Power, which plans a solar farm to the east of Costco, Klein said.
Between 7 and 8 acres at the southwest corner of the airport, near Robinson’s Auto Body, is available for development, Klein said. The land is not under contract and Klein said the airport has worked with Landmark Real Estate and other brokers.
Airport Commission Chair Doug DeYoung said there’s also undeveloped property on the north side of the airport, while other areas like the woods surrounding the airport’s main entrance, would not be available for development.
DeYoung said the strategic plan builds on the airport’s master plan — which the commission revisits every five or 10 years. “The best new developments on airport property are those that exist long term,” he said.
“If certain industries like delivery services wanted to be at the airport, that is certainly something we would look at,” DeYoung said.
What’s not in the report, Klein said, is the importance of the airport’s human resources, the front-line workers.
“We make plans far into the future, but these are the people who show up every day and do their jobs and keep us all going,” Klein said. “They’re also the people who don’t often see themselves in the newspaper.”
Klein credited the airport’s maintenance, cleaning and clerical staff for their dedication to the airport especially early in the pandemic when most travelers were booking healthcare-related trips to care for relatives.
“Passenger numbers are coming back,” Klein said. “Leisure travel first, then business travel is likely to follow. Passengers feel safer to fly and we want to do whatever we can to encourage that.”
First, he said, by keeping the terminal clean and sanitized. Second by stressing that if passengers are sick, or show symptoms of COVID-19 or are under quarantine, they shouldn’t fly.
The airport commission recently approved a new higher-priced cleaning contract with United Commercial Services, which bid 950 hours to a previous vendor’s 668 hours.
“Since COVID, we think the terminal would benefit from increased hours of cleaning,” Klein said and the commission agreed.
The contract is for $21,500 a month for two years with an option to renew.
News Source: Traverse City Record Eagle