When he first heard about the plan to create "an international cargo hub" at the Hendry County Airglades Airport in Clewiston, Roger Harrison dismissed the idea as a "pipe dream." But now
|» "This is a potential game changer. This is the type of project that could affect this county for generations to come."
— Roger Harrison, president/CEO, Hendry County Economic Development Council
The FAA's pilot program would allow Florida Cargo Fresh, a company backed by a cooperative of Florida agri-businesses, to manage the airport and qualify for federal funds to pay for needed renovations, such as a new runway, hangars, a warehouse designed to store perishables and other infrastructure improvements.
"This is a potential game changer," Harrison says. "This is the type of project that could affect this county for generations to come."
Fred Ford, Florida Cargo Fresh president and spokesman, says the improvements could require as much as $350 million. Ford says his company will use the airport's inclusion in the FAA's pilot program to apply for federal funds and start building "economic models" to make sure the project is feasible. For now, he envisions a perishable cargo hub, where around 30 flights a day will deliver produce from Latin America. From there, the produce would be trucked to other parts of the state and the Northeast along U.S. 27.
The project would likely siphon some cargo that would otherwise be shipped to Miami, the busiest international produce hub in the country. Ford thinks there's enough produce for both.
As president of Florida Cargo Fresh, Fred Ford will try to establish a perishable cargo hub.
The project, Ford says, would initially generate between 300 and 400 jobs. He adds that Florida Cargo Fresh is "probably 18 months to two years away from saying, 'OK, we're going forward or we're not.' "