Chandler aims to grow municipal airport business - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler aims to grow municipal airport business

October 10th, 2021 development
Chandler aims to grow municipal airport business

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

City officials want to make one thing very clear: Don’t expect to see American or United planes landing at Chandler Airport.

“When we think of airports, we think of Sky Harbor, we think of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. We don’t think of small regional or general-aviation airports,” City Manager Joshua Wright said. “They’re not designed to be a passenger airport and that’s never been the plan for Chandler.”

Wright said the airport will remain focused on business and executive travel only.

To help it with that mission, the city is currently reviewing applications to manage the airport – the third busiest of its kind in the Valley. Deer Valley and Mesa’s Falcon Field rank ahead of it.

Wright said the need for the position became apparent after City Council reviewed its plan for the airport and the surrounding airpark last summer.

“It comes from the Council’s … renewed commitment to growing the airport and the airpark area,” Wright said. “I think we’ve realized in the last few years it’s one of the last frontiers in terms of the growth of Chandler.”

He said it is time for a higher level of leadership and management.

The person hired will be responsible for the daily operations at the airport, as well as assisting with the development projects inside the airport’s fences. The city makes clear in its posting that it is looking for someone with economic development experience.

Wright said most of the airpark outside the fences has already been developed. A presentation to Council in August said only 470 acres remain to be developed in the more-than-3,000-acre airpark.

“It’s actually further along than most people would think,” Wright said. “But we also need to make sure than that we’re very careful and very strategic about those last few pieces, to make sure they are exactly the right use and they fully complement the existing business sector there.”

Chandler Economic Development Director Micah Miranda said the city is pursuing businesses that meet fit within its strategic plan. Those include aerospace, high tech, software, and health care businesses, among others.

“If they don’t align with the strategic plan, we’re very protective of that space,” he said. “We will work with them to find an alternative space that might work better.”

Miranda and Wright said a key part of the new manager’s job will be working with new businesses inside the airport fences.

“We actually provided, I think for the first time, compared to the previous airport master plans, a little more detail about the types of businesses that could locate within the airport fence line,” Wright said.

He said the city has a request for proposals out right now for a possible business next to the airport’s terminal.

Changes to the city’s master plan for the airpark are expected to be before Council for approval this week.

Wright, who was acting airport manager before he became acting city manager, said building relationships will be a key part of the job.

“There’s a lot of different stakeholders at the airport,” Wright said. “You have your hobbyist pilot, that is just doing for recreational purposes, and who just loves flying, and we welcome those people at Chandler Airport; there’s businesses that are physically located, that is their livelihood, on the airport, that are leasing land from the city, that’s an important stakeholder; you have people who fly for a living, charter aircraft or other services that are here a lot, that you want to build relationships with.

“And of course, certainly not least of that, is the community around the area, all the businesses outside in the airpark area, there’s some great neighborhoods there, you want to build those relationships.”

Chris Andres is the airport planning administrator. His primary focus has been securing both federal and state grants that supply most of the funding needed to run and improve the airport.

Wright said Andres has a background in economic development and will be a key player in advocating for the airport with the businesses inside the airpark.

The new manager, once hired, will focus on daily operations and working with the businesses inside the airport’s fences.