Sporty’s owner pitches plan for economic development
Founder and Chairman of Sporty’s Market Hal Shevers says Clermont County needs more high paying blue collar jobs, and he has a plan to bring them here.
Shevers has been the fixed base operator for the Clermont County Airport since 1986 and is the founder of the world’s largest supplier of general aviation products. He has suggested the Clermont County Commissioners consider extending the runway at the airport in an effort to draw more business aircraft to the county.
“With the folding of CVG that’s going on now this airport is more important than ever,” Shevers said. “If we don’t have a place for these corporate guys to land we won’t see the high paying blue collar jobs in the county like we used to.”
The Clermont County Airport runway is currently 3,706 feet long. Shevers said extending the runway to about 4,500 feet would make it a more attractive airport for high ranking business executives.
Clermont County Board of Commissioners President Ed Humphrey said a runway extension is not something the Commissioners have discussed recently.
“There are a lot of tradeoffs to consider,” Humphrey said. “I would have concerns about the noise and its impact on the surrounding residents but the economic development aspects Hal has mentioned and the possibility of bringing in larger aircraft is certainly a positive. I’m sure it would improve his business.”
Shevers and Sporty’s Senior Vice President Bill Anderson said they would be more than happy to continue the airport as it is.
“If they decide not to lengthen it right now we’re happy, and if they decide to lengthen the runway to bring in jobs, we’re happy,” Shevers said.
According to the National Business Aviation Association businesses use private aircraft for quick access to their facilities to increase employee productivity, expand markets, secure a competitive advantage, induce operational efficiency, offset company expenses by avoiding the use of commercial airlines and subsequently overnight stays, and to improve risk management.
“When you go out in a plane you always make one or two other stops,” Shevers said. “Let’s say a CEO visits a plant manager in Owensville in the morning, meets with a plant manager in Murfreesboro, Tenn. for lunch, and flies to a trade association dinner in L.A., that’s where planes pay off.”
Shevers said it is important for CEOs and high ranking managers to have quick and easy access to their employees
to boost moral and oversee quality control.
“The CEO is the driving force of the company,” Shevers said. “They have to perpetually be there communicating.”
Batavia Township administrator Rex Parsons said over the years several companies have located in the township because of quick access to the airport.
“I think it’s a bigger asset than we probably realize, but I can’t tell if it is always a deciding factor,” Parsons said.
Clermont County Commissioner and Batavia Township resident Archie Wilson said extending the runway is not something he has personally considered.
“I know Lunken gets loaded with jets but our airport has not been a key factor to bringing people here that I know of,” Wilson said. “Hal’s been a good neighbor over the years. It might be something worth looking at.”
Mt. Orab Mayor Bruce Lunsford has spent the last 30 years pushing for economic development in his village, and executives he has met with generally fly out of Lunken Field.
“We have had the question (of airport access) come up in the past,” Lunsford said. “We tell them to go to Lunken, but of course they have to get through Eastgate first. It definitely wouldn’t hurt to have a closer airport, but I can’t say that it has held us back.”
Clermont County Commissioner and Batavia Township resident Bob Proud said he believes drawing more jet traffic to the county would be too great a burden on the residents near the airport.
“The county cannot sustain their budget on just retail, we need high paying blue collar jobs,” Shevers said. “To do the things my bleeding heart says I need to do we need good tax payers as compared to good consumers.”
An extension would allow the airport to install an instrument landing system. An ILS would provide vital information to pilots in inclement weather and at night. Shevers said the airport is in the process of installing a wide area augmentation system that would provide satellite based landing information, however he said an ILS system is slightly more accurate and reliable, and is the preferred system of business aviators.
According to Jeff Gilley, Director of Airports and Infrastructure for the National Business Aviation Association, the Federal Aviation Administration does not set specific length requirements for aircraft. There are a number of factors that determine the length of runway needed for an aircraft to take off, including weather conditions and density of the air, weight of the aircraft when loaded, and the type of engine driving the aircraft, however the NBAA publishes a general guideline for runway length.
There are three basic types of aircraft propulsion systems, standard piston engine propellers, turboprop propellers, and turbine jet engines.
“The dominate airplane in business fleets is the turboprop,” Hubbard said.
Turboprops uses a turbine engine to spin the propellers. They are slower and quieter than jet engine based aircraft.
According to the NBAA the optimum runway length for very light jets and turboprops is 4,000 feet, and runways as short as 3,000 feet are acceptable. Shevers said most businesses will refuse to land a turboprop plane on a runway less than 4,000 feet in length. At 4,500 feet the runway would also be the optimum length for light jets. Anderson said currently about 10 percent of the aircraft that use the Clermont County Airport but are not based at the airport are turboprop aircraft.
Hubbard said in addition to the length of the runway there are other factors that determine the attractiveness of an airport. He said most businessmen who fly privately look for quick access to rental cars, nearby restaurants, and nearby hotels.
Anderson said they are more than willing to make arrangements with Enterprise Rent-a-Car for incoming visitors. Nearby Eastgate also offers a number of dining and hotel options.
Hubbard said many executives will hold meetings at the airport to avoid additional travel time and they need access to meeting facilities and telecommunications equipment.
The Sporty’s terminal maintains a small dining area complete with wifi Internet access where visitors can meet. Anderson said they also provide a private conference room with presentation and telecommunication facilities upon request.
The Obama administration has garnered a renewed interest in infrastructure development and Hubbard said if the airport can provided the types of increased use projections the FAA is looking for the county could be eligible for a 90 percent grant for construction costs on a runway extension. Currently there are three parcels of land at the north end of the runway that are privately owned. Two are owned by Mary Winn Gatch, who recently donated land for the road extension connecting the UC Clermont campus with Old State Route 74. Shevers said he believed Gatch would be willing to donate the land to the county for the runway extension, but the third parcel would need to be purchased.
“The commissioners have been focused on MRDD, the hospital, and schools, and that’s all very good, but they forgot about high paying blue collar jobs,” Shevers said.