Okaloosa v. Panama City in Airport Expansions
Okaloosa Regional Airport has “exceptional operating efficiencies,” says director Greg Donovan. [Photo: Paull Brou]
Okaloosa County is planning an airport expansion even as it anticipates steep competition from the new $315-million Panama City-Bay County International Airport being built 65 miles to the east, expected to open in 2010. Okaloosa Regional Airport Director Greg Donovan, new to the post since January, talks about Okaloosa’s plans.
Florida Trend: How will Okaloosa Regional Airport compete with the new Bay County airport?
Greg Donovan: Exceptional operating efficiencies, for one. Because we operate a joint use facility with the Air Force, the Air Force maintains the runways and taxiways. We just signed a new 25-year lease with the Air Force, adding 22 acres for expansion. We’ll spend $51 million to expand over the next five years, including $14 million for a new shared rental car facility and $12-to-$15 million for terminal building expansion. Incidentally, our runways, at 10,000 and 12,000 feet, are larger than those initially planned at Bay County.
FT: What do you see as Okaloosa’s market niche in future?
GD: Military travel — active duty, civilian or contractor — is consistently important for us. We also have the advantage of central location in a growing coastal region, in a county that’s been a leader in economic growth and where our beaches frequently are cited as tourists’ favorites.
FT: How competitive are you with Pensacola’s airport, which has been the regional leader in traffic count — and where you were assistant director until you took this job?
GD: Our traffic count was up nearly 10% last year. We’re served by the same airlines as Pensacola, with the exception that Pensacola has AirTran. US Airways will start serving Okaloosa in April, indicating major airlines consider Okaloosa a viable market. And we’re getting some direct markets that the competition doesn’t have, for example, Cincinnati.
|Pensacola||6||1.6 million||1,300||2 (7,000 feet each)|
|Okaloosa||5||800,000||1,340||2 (10,000 and 12,000 feet)|
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