Q: Huntsville International Airport is very active with economic development for our region. Tell us about what kind of business you work to recruit, including recently at the Paris Air Show.
Everybody needs passenger travel, and everybody needs to transport their goods. The Port of Huntsville is proud to be a part of the Huntsville/Madison County delegation attending important business development events like the Paris Air Show. When companies are considering where to locate their headquarters, an office, or manufacturing facility, they are looking for some very specific amenities related to moving people and goods. With a sophisticated inland port and intermodal center, Foreign Trade Zone 83 and a U.S. Customs office onsite, as well as commercial and private passenger aviation, and 8,000 acres of real estate including the Jetplex Industrial Park, the Port of Huntsville is able to offer companies a complete package that makes it advantageous for them to locate in Huntsville.
Q: There has been a renewed push for several years to get more people to ‘Fly Huntsville’ – what is the latest?
We approach our marketing campaigns and public relations efforts to Fly Huntsville as an opportunity to educate our community. It’s important for people to know that buying a ticket to fly from Huntsville is casting a vote for more nonstop routes and more air service for the routes we have. Airlines find growing markets attractive. We also want potential customers to think about the value of their time – we are close to home, and our latest campaign emphasizes the value of “Get to the Fun Faster.” Who wants to spend half of their vacation day just getting to the airport? We want passengers to think about the risks of driving hours to catch a flight at an out-of-town airport, too. Flights are more scarce this year, and they are full, so missing a flight because of an unforeseen traffic slow-down or stop might mean you don’t leave the airport at all for a day or more. Finally, we want our community to think about Huntsville International Airport when they are considering visiting desirable leisure destinations like Las Vegas, Orlando and Tampa. Breeze Airways offers nonstop service to these vacation spots at ultra-low fares making flying from HSV even more affordable and more convenient.
Q: There’s a lot more that happens at the Airport than just passenger travel. You also handle quite a bit of cargo!
We have a new, 110,000-square-foot cargo warehouse coming online soon, after construction is completed this year. This space has been leased already, and this just illustrates how desirable real estate adjacent to the runway is. Alongside that project, construction is nearly complete on a new cargo hangar access road that will service the hangars located between Wall-Triana Highway and the east runway. We did see some fluctuations in the supply chain over the past few years. When the seaports were experiencing huge backlogs, the demand for air cargo service skyrocketed. Now that the ports are flowing freely again, the logistics supply chain is normalizing, and our intermodal center is seeing the demand for cargo transport by rail and truck increasing to pre-COVID levels.
Q: Huntsville International Airport is one of our Regional Partners in the Huntsville Regional Economic Growth Initiative, or HREGI. What would you say to other companies who are considering an investment?
We believe that HREGI does help strengthen the economic base in our community, that it grows Huntsville in the technology sector and enhances our quality of life here. We see the benefits of having a seat at the table, and by participating in HREGI, we are able to cooperate in positioning Huntsville and Madison County as a leading economic growth center in the Southeast.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
We are excited about the capabilities we are developing to host UAS (unmanned aviation systems) testing on our property. We’ve got an opportunity here for anyone in the UAS business, and our facility has the ability to support businesses in this field. With 8,000 acres, we have built basic facilities adjacent to the airport, outside our perimeter fence, that include landing pads and operational assets required for UAS testing. It’s a way we can utilize this land and benefit not just our community but technology development that benefits the field of UAS aviation. Our vision is to match the growth of our community, and one day, we plan to build additional runways and amenities to service our growing commercial customer and cargo base. To take a peek at the future, our Master Plan can be accessed online at portofhuntsville.com/public-info-reports.
This article appears in the August 2023 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.