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32 CHAPTER FOUR FINDINGS LESSONS LEARNED The positive and negative lessons the 53 airports shared can be categorized into three major areas: collaboration, communica- tion and marketing, and patience. Collaboration: Many surveyed airports cited the need for ongoing collaboration with their funding partners, regulatory agencies, sponsor, and customer. The following are some comments from the survey respondents: â¢ Work closely with the FAA for airport layout plan approval. â¢ Work with city economic development agencies to attract new business. â¢ Work closely with city planning departments to smooth the approval and permitting process. â¢ Try to prepare for the unexpected. â¢ Spell out agreements, so there are no surprisesâambiguity can lead to longer project times. â¢ Work with all entities: city, county, chamber of commerce, business and educational leaders. Teamwork makes a project come together. â¢ When using multiple funding sources, try to get an agreement with the agency that is in the lead. â¢ Include the FAA to ensure compliance with its guidance. â¢ Create a partnership with the FAA ADO from project concept to implementation. â¢ Coordinate with the local permitting jurisdiction. â¢ Engage the right subject matter experts, as projects are unique and complex and require time and effort. â¢ Develop strong partnerships at the outset, as the development may be time-consuming. â¢ Plan with all possible entities up front to save time and effort over the long run. â¢ Get consensus. Communication and marketing: Surveyed airports cited the need to maintain open lines of communication with all the entities involved and to develop ongoing marketing initiatives and plans, as the project may take a considerable amount of time. The following are some comments from the survey respondents: â¢ Sell the benefits of the project to the community and elected officials. â¢ The market to attract industrial aviation activities is highly competitive, and developers bring significant economic impact, so a strong marketing presence is needed. â¢ Must be ready when a customer needs to commence, cannot wait to build until they come, so marketing is important. â¢ Constant communication with the groups indicated earlier in the collaboration section. Patience: One of the most often cited lessons learned by the surveyed airports was the virtue of patience, as development projects and funding schemes take a long time. Many projects take 1 to 3 years from initiation to implementation even under the most ideal circumstances. The following are some comments from the survey respondents: â¢ Industrial development is a slow processâonly construct when you have an inked deal. This speaks to the need for planning and proactivity. â¢ It takes a long time and more funds than you think. â¢ It takes too much time. â¢ You can never begin soon enough. â¢ You can never move fast enough. â¢ It is difficult to manage everyoneâs expectations. â¢ Political pressure can be stressful and overwhelming.
33 â¢ Consideration of all the right variables requires an enormous amount of time and effort. â¢ Process is cumbersome with long lead time. â¢ It takes a long time to develop leads into actionable deals. â¢ The infrastructure is never needed as fast as clients say they need it. In addition to the lessons learned in the three categories of collaboration, communication and marketing, and patience, five cross-cutting concepts emerged in the airportsâ answers to the open-ended question seeking advice for another airport considering industrial aviation development: â¢ The project should stand on its own without negatively impacting the airport or its users. â¢ Industrial aviation development requires an appetite for moderate to high risk/reward. â¢ Job creation for the community is the most important goal. It is more lucrative than return on investment. â¢ Strict cost control is essential. â¢ Local community support is imperative. EVALUATING ALTERNATIVE FUNDING METHODS AND PROJECT SUCCESS When the 53 surveyed airports rated the various funding methods for desirability and effectiveness, they gave highly indi- vidualistic, airport-specific reasons for their rankings. This clearly reflects the reality that each airport development deal is its own deal. However, one theme recurred consistently: the success of an industrial aviation project is judged first by the number of jobs it creates. This may be in the form of an ROI computed as number of jobs divided by dollars invested or it may be in a more qualitative form: Did the development fulfill the goals of the airport and its community? The focus on job creation and the necessity of controlling costs make using a quantitative measure such as ROI more feasible than for other airport investments.