Airport seeking development partners City officials hope to form private partnerships to aid infrastructure expansion

Since voters in November did not approve bond funds for McKinney National Airport to continue to expand its operations, city officials are now looking for a different way to fund future airport development—through a public-private partnership.

“Time is money, and having access to multiple modes of transportation and diverse choices for moving people, goods and products in and out of your community … enhances your economic potential,” said Darrell Auterson, McKinney Economic Development Corp. director.

Airport seeking development partnersThe airport consists of about 750 acres—42 acres of which have not been developed—with plans to expand to more than 1,100 acres at build-out if additional land purchases can be secured.

MNA Executive Director Ken Weigand said continued expansion of the airport has the potential to benefit the entire county. However, he said he fears that if the airport is unable to secure additional land, someone else could develop the surrounding property, which would put an end to any potential airport growth and greatly stifle other economic development surrounding it.

“To have a first-rate [airport], one of the best tower operations in the country and the kind of growth potential that surrounds the facility is really an edge for us,” Auterson said. “We want to use [MNA] in every way to enhance our growth opportunities here in our community, so it is a very critical piece of our infrastructure.”

Request for proposal

MNA, a general aviation airport, is the only one of its kind in Collin County.

A general aviation airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, focuses mainly on more specialized services compared with the commercial airline services an airport such as Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport provides. Those specialized services include emergency medical flights; flights by local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies; and flight-training purposes as well as business and corporate traffic from companies headquartered or interested in doing business in Collin County.

In McKinney, the MNA acts as a welcome mat to companies building or relocating their headquarters in Collin County, and as such the airport has continued to see high demand and high revenue, Weigand said.

Airport seeking development partnersAlthough the demand at the airport is positive for airport business in terms of revenue, Weigand said the lack of hangar space and other airport infrastructure hurts the airport’s ability to draw more business from larger corporations that want to establish a presence at the airport.

“We need to secure additional land in order to preserve what we want the airport to be for its entire growth,” Deputy City Manager Jose Madrigal said. “We also need more hangars. We are turning jets away every day. We have planes wanting to come to McKinney—we just don’t have a place to put them right now.”

In order to help solve that problem, in mid-July the city issued a request for proposal, or RFP, to local developers who might be interested in partnering with the city to further develop the airport.

“When the bond issue failed in November, it meant we had limited funding available to develop the airport, and one of the things we had to look at was having the private sector—through some sort of contract—come in and develop those [undeveloped] 42 acres and come up with concepts to build hangars and things like that since we don’t have the capital to do it,” Madrigal said. 

Do you think having more development at McKinney National Airport will help spur economic development in the city?

The RFP is open-ended, he said, adding that the city did not want to place any guidelines or plans that could potentially limit development.

“We are not looking for a specific company or developer; it’s really more about the concept and what it looks like in regards to protecting our investment,” he said. “We have to figure out how the hangars work, what would developers need for the hangars—would they build the hangar, then we rent the space back? There are so many different ways you could [take development that] we just want to keep it as open as possible to see what is out there. We talked about what [a partnership] could potentially look like, but we didn’t want to limit ourselves because maybe there is something out there we have never thought of.”

Madrigal said he expects the city to have multiple proposals within 90 days of the RFP’s issuance and if an acceptable plan is submitted, city staff will research it and present it to City Council for a vote to allow staff to continue discussions.

“I think within 12 months we could see something come to fruition—not something being built, but an agreement being made and discussions taking place working toward turning some dirt,” Madrigal said. “I think there are plenty of people in our area that will see this and be interested in the RFP. McKinney is an aviation airport and I think people understand the value of growing this airport.”

Working to meet current demand

While airport officials work to bring more development, they have finished construction on two major projects.

Construction was completed on a new 15,000-square-foot hangar that was preleased at capacity by the time the hangar opened Aug. 1.

Madrigal said the airport also finished a reconstruction of the apron—where aircraft are parked outdoors—made possible through a $6.2 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. The project reconstructed a 38,500-foot apron and added 8,500 square feet for a total of 47,000 square feet of apron, which greatly increased the number of aircraft that can be parked at one time.

“This project has come in at an advantageous time because we are seeing increased traffic and we can park jets to the side [of the runway] if they come in for day trips so we can continue to serve the capacity we’ve been getting,” he said.

Airport seeking development partnersMark Jaraczewski, general manager of McKinney Air Center, the fixed-base operator that provides aeronautical services such as fueling, hangaring, parking, and aircraft rental and more for MNA, said even with the amount of funding the city has put into the building of new hangars, demand is already there for even more space. He said as the area sees an increase of major corporations moving to the area, its available aircraft space decreases.

“It’s a very delicate balance; it’s very much which one comes first—do you get the land … or get the hangars that could produce the revenue to purchase the land?” Madrigal said. “We have to go with whatever is going to give us the most bang for our buck, which right now means the hangar, because it will produce the revenue we need to purchase the land, which is too [expensive] for the means that we currently have.”

Learning from other airports

Weigand said developing the airport sooner rather than later is essential, adding that his biggest fear is becoming landlocked like neighboring general aviation airports.

Addison Airport, for example, is another general aviation airport in the region similar to MNA. The airport was purchased by the city of Addison in 1976 and generates roughly $370 million of economic contribution each year, said Darci Nuezil, deputy director of Addison Airport.

“There are more than 80 aviation-related employers on or near the airport who provide a diverse array of aviation and aircraft services,” she said. “Aviation employers create over 2,340 jobs at the airport with salaries, wages and benefits totaling in excess of $136 million. Taken as an economic entity, [Addison Airport] ranks among the major employers in the town of Addison.”

Nuezil said the airport is a large factor in attracting new businesses and a financial benefit to the city.

“Business spending at the airport injects revenues into the community, and spending by air visitors produces revenues for businesses in the hospitality sectors as well,” she said.

Although Addison Airport continues to generate revenue, further development at the airport is impossible because of a lack of available land.

“Addison [Airport] can’t expand—they can only redevelop, which means they will have to tear something down and build on top of it rather than add more runways or more hangars,” Weigand said. “We just want to make sure we can fully develop the airport before the land around us is bought
and developed.”

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Airport seeking development partners

Comments

  • The constant comparisons to Addison Airport contains mistaken assumptions: - Addison is the geographical center of Dallas, located between downtown, Plano/Frisco, DFW, Garland, etc. McKinney is at the far northeastern corner of the metro. - Addison is served by an extensive highway network, making it convenient to access numerous areas. McKinney airport is located well off of any highway network, increasing the drive time and attractiveness for private flights. - The Wright Amendment repeal impact on other area airports has not been fully realized and will certainly impact demand for smaller facilities. - Corproate demand in McKinney is miniscule compared to Addison, which has millions of SF of office space and major corporations, where McKinney has only a handful. - In terms of building more runways, is there a study showing constraints with the current configuration? To see why Addison is unique, just look at the numerous events (fireworks, festivals, concerts, etc.) that take place there, due to its extensive support amenities and convenient access. I love McKinney, but it is a fruitless challenge to put growth goals in the hands of an airport. I think the city should focus on what's truly unique, the downtown area. Nothing like this exists in the metroplex, but it is not effectively marketed. We bring every visitor there as an example of a preserved small town.


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