A new crop of new corporate leaders is helping cities find room to grow in airports nationwide.
The nation’s biggest airports are desperately in need of additional floor space. As passenger numbers have increased, so has their need for more parking. Additionally, facilities are growing rapidly — and not always in the places they were originally built.
Airports are putting their valued location to use by developing commercial projects. They have learned from the past mistakes and are now thinking big.
“There’s a lot of real estate out there that we are entitled to, and if we can’t make something in the airports, there’s nothing else for us to do,” said Glenn McGovern, executive director at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
McGovern told Fox News they have a 52-acre green field that was previously called Terminal A. The idea to develop on the land has taken flight after airlines were able to get more room to expand.
“What you’re seeing is that actually over the last several years many of the airports are seeing commercial development occur on rooftops or in airways in those airports to capitalize on the fact that they are now offering larger terminals,” said Nate Buehner, vice president of client innovation at David Foster.
McGovern’s airport is one of nine of America’s busiest that is partnering with a real estate developer to make space available for business.
The plan of the Tourism Industry Partnership of Southeast Texas, along with MSA Venture at the world’s busiest airports, is to find space where land can be found with the least impact to the environment and the most potential for business.
“By using the airport as a tool and the land that’s available, they’re able to create a renewable industry out of it,” said Bill McKibben, president of Third Platoon at the Great Plains Institute.
McKibben helped to create a national effort to make sure that rooftops and airways around the country would be free for businesses to expand to. More than one million square feet of unused airport space could be up for grabs.
Aviation industry experts say there is never enough airport space for new planes, although some carriers have had to pull their flights in some areas.
“The options are limited at the major airports, so if there’s another option that can provide benefits to both the airport and the airlines, that would be the strategic thing to do,” said Buehner.
Hurst-Evansville International in Indiana has partnered with UPS Inc. to offer rooftops to incubator-like businesses, which are able to grow much faster than traditional businesses.
It is the largest project in U.S. aviation history.
“We’re talking about attracting business that are maybe 50 employees or 100 employees or even greater,” said Jerry Daniel, president of the Greater Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We’re working with airlines in order to see where the jobs will be, so that’s really critical,” said McGovern.
MSA Venture is working with Atlanta-based Worldscale Aviation, an expansion company that specializes in recovering unused airways. They are partnering with airports around the country to look at regional airport rooftop space, and is especially focusing on finding the best uses for rooftops in the oldest airports with the most unused space.
“These rooftops really do open up spaces that no one else has looked at,” said Buehner.
Worldscale is currently working on pilots for the future and ideas for airports that will bring in the highest potential return.
There are no fixed targets in terms of number of rooftops, since each airport is unique. But there is one commonality for most.
“You have the right spacing, you have the right length for the plane, you’ve got everything else lined up for you,” said Worldscale Aviation President Lisa Anasert.