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Florida public Airglades Airport makes bid for cargo hub development with application to privatize 

The trend of small airports emerging as contenders against traditional air cargo hubs continues in the triangle of land in southern Florida between Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Located around 100 miles northwest of Miami International Airport (MIA), Hendry County’s public Airglades International Airport (2IS) is making a bid to develop its cargo capabilities, with a specific interest in building perishable cargo infrastructure.  

On Aug. 7, Hendry County and its selected private operator of the airport, Airglades International Airport LLC (AIA), jointly submitted a final application (the document) to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Investment Partnership Program (AIPP) – formerly the Airport Privatization Pilot Program. Approval of the application would enable the sale of the Hendry County-owned 2IS to AIA for further development. Should the application be approved, AIA has selected Star America as its private investor and equity partner, along with AvPORTS – which supports management services for 16 U.S. airports, including those owned by the Port Authority of NY & NJ (ACY, JFK, LGA, EWR, SWF, TEB) and Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) – as its airport operator. 

Currently AIA has proposed development of airfield and landside facilities, specifically a Proposed Perishable Air Cargo Complex (Cargo Complex) at the airport to serve the serve perishables the region, upon its privatization. The total financing requirement for privatization and the project is estimated to cost approximately $460 million. 

“Airglades presents a greenfield opportunity to develop operations and infrastructure with abundant land available and less congestion,” the document said. “At Airglades, stakeholders can develop on- and off-airport facilities that are both state-of-the-art and customized to the processing of perishable goods while minimizing cold-chain touch points and disruption, which supports increased perishable products.” 

With airports in the region like Miami (MIA), Tampa (TPA) and Orlando (MCO) that have a long history of serving perishable imports entering the U.S., it may seem as though 2IS is facing Goliaths. However, AIA contends that “the market wants this” and says it has strong interest from potential customers and investors. At least 1200 companies as interested in carrying out operations at 2IS, including Florida Cargo Brokers and Forwarders, Florida Cargo Fresh and Commercial Jet, according to the document. 

“[Florida] completed a study through the Florida Chamber Foundation which identified seven key elements to maintaining Florida and South Florida importing and exporting international cargo.  One of the key steps recommended was the fact that there is a need for a secondary airport to relieve Miami Airport,” said AIA President and CEO Fred Ford. 

AIA and Hendry county said that stakeholders at the airport would save costs out of Airglades compared to Miami International Airport (MIA), as studied by LOGYCA, a South American affiliate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study conducted by LOGYCA found that moving from MIA to 2IS would generate around 10 cents per pound in run rate cost savings, and around a 12% increased revenue through improved shelf-life based on self-reported data from importers.  

How 2IS would compete with much larger airports including MIA, TPA and MCO remains to be seen and reliant upon approval of the aforementioned and recently submitted application to the FAA. The general increase in air cargo providers moving from larger to newer or smaller airports could bode well for the project. Over the past year, several air cargo providers including AirBridgeCargo and Kalitta have selected to operate at smaller airports, while others, like Amazon have avoided operations at major airports, instead choosing the flexibility and capacity offered at less-congested airports. 

Now that the application is submitted, a public comment period is open and will last until Sept. 15, 2019. Following this, the FAA will issue a decision on the application. Upon successful close of finances projected for Feb. 28, 2020, construction of the Cargo Complex is slated to begin Mar. 1, 2020 with first commercial flights targeted to land at 2IS beginning May 20, 2020. 

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