By TED CARTER
If you’re in the flying business, whether from the air or ground, Carl Newman wants to talk to you.
He has lots of land to lease and soon will have roads that can reach it. “We’ll be primarily focused on aeronautical,” said Newman, a veteran airport operations executive who since becoming CEO of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority slightly more than a year ago has made a priority of planning the marketing of hundreds of acres of raw land the Authority owns near Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.
A lot is riding on the success of the deal making that lies ahead, he said. “One of the things our 5-year plan hinges on is an increase in non-aviation revenue.”
The aeronautics sector is his primary target, at least the target for the 750 acres the Airport Authority says will be ready for tenants once phase two of the East Metro Parkway is completed. The new phase on which work is set to begin any day gives four-lane road access from Lakeland Drive in Flowood to Old Brandon Road in Pearl. Completion is expected in 18 months.
“We’ll be primarily focused on getting businesses that are aeronautical in nature,” said Newman, describing a range of operations from maintenance and parts storage to crew training or any other aviation-related use.
“We’ll be looking to supply them land.”
Airplanes, he noted, are easily movable and can be brought to Jackson from Mexico, Central America or from even across the ocean.
“We’re talking globally,” Newman said.
Land he leases within the 750-acre tract will run parallel to the 8,500-foot east runway of Jackson-Evers, giving tenants direct access to the runway.
More immediately, the Airport Authority is seeking tenants for 210 acres that opened for development with 2013’s completion of the first phase of the East Metro Parkway.
Newman said the 210 acres are shovel-ready, having been Entergy Qualified, a process by which the power company assesses development readiness. Entergy Mississippi has a lengthy checklist for evaluating such properties, said Ed Gardner, the power company’s director of business and economic development.
“The Entergy Qualified Site Program is essentially looking at the risk of a site and eliminating as much of that risk as possible,” Gardner said in an interview Monday. “We’re looking at all of the factors a company or developer would be looking at.”
The checklist includes environmental factors such as wetlands, soil conditions, the presence of hazardous waste and other issues that could arise in the environmental permitting process, according to Gardner.
The qualification process also addresses the ready availability of electricity, water, sewer and telecommunications services. “Either the infrastructure is in place or they have a plan to get it there,” Gardner said.
The qualification means the owner of the property has done a lot the due diligence work already, he said. “This takes away a lot of the risk for the enduser.”
Newman said he expects the 750-acre tract will have Entergy Qualified designation by the time the East Metro Parkway extension is completed in late 2017 or early 2018.
“That is the key – the access road,” Gardner said. “The plan to connect to I-20 is another critical step. It is a great piece of property.”
Entergy Mississippi, which primarily serves the central and northern parts of the state, has awarded the Qualified designation to seven or so sites in the state, according to Gardner.
Newman’s focus is on aeronautical, at least for the larger airport-owned tract. But the development potential seems to go beyond that, said a pair of Jackson commercial real estate professionals.
Marshal Loeb, CEO of Jackson-based EastGroup, which does industrial and warehouse development near airports in the West and South, said his company’s dearth of experience developing near Jackson-Evers makes it difficult to assess the potential of the airport properties. He noted, however, he is certain opening up nearby land will help generate revenues whether the users are aviation oriented or not.
Retail, at least for the frontage along the East Metro Parkway, may be a worthwhile initial pursuit, he said.
Commercial real estate broker Brian Estes, principal of the Estes Group, said he thinks the land along the Parkway could initially draw convenience stores, fast-food outlets and small strip centers. Big box stores and major retail centers are unlikely until developers get a fix on whether retail saturation of Flowood’s Lakeland Drive corridor has occurred, Estes said.
On the other hand, the potential for the properties to draw clusters of small technical and industrial companies is more certain, he said. Such companies gravitate to areas near airports, he said. “If you go to any sizable city that is typically where a lot of the technical-industrial users want to locate.”
Orlando-Melbourne International Airport, situated on the central east coast of Florida about 50 miles from Orlando, has drawn attention as a small airport that has achieved success bringing development to land in and around the airport. Much of the development has been related to aerospace or aeronautics.
“Ready to build” has been a successful mantra for the airport, said Lorie Booker, the airport’s communications chief.
“We put in all the facilities with the tarmac and everything – ready to build,” she said.
At the moment, Orlando-Melbourne International has about “$84 million of construction going on airside,” she said. “That means companies that need access to runways are building there.”
The lineup of aviation companies using that access includes executive jet maker Embraer and aircraft manufacturer Northop Grumman, which is doing design work on the B-2 long-range stealth bomber in a large airside hangar.
A recent victory came with the landing of the Thales Group, an avionics supplier whose products include televisions for seatbacks on commercial aircraft.
“We won the bid over other airports because it was, like, ‘Build the structure and we’re ready,’” Booker said.
The success of the sustained development on and near the airport has helped the airport to recover money lost during the Great Recession, she added.
“Our target market for economic development was 25 companies. We figured out who the best fit was and we went after them.”
Look for Newman to do much the same. “We want to do deals,” he said.
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