The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 18, 2012

Airport Authority ignores marketing plan

Raises hangar rates when plan recommends lowering them

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

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The Ashtabula County Airport Authority went against its marketing plan when it voted to raise hangar rates at the Ashtabula County Regional Airport earlier this week.

The authority voted on Monday to raise hangar rental rates by 3.75 percent effective Jan. 1. But a marketing plan commissioned by the authority and rolled out in April recommended the authority lower the rates in order to attract new tenants and thereby bring about an overall increase in revenues.

Authority President Dwight Bowden said the board did “execute the plan” with a mailing that targeted single-engine and multi-engine aircraft owners in a seven-county area. The cost was estimated at $3,200.

The promotion offered a free month of rent when a new tenant signed up for a year. But Bowden said they did not attract one new tenant, and after two months of trying the plan, the authority decided to raise the rents.

Aircraft owner Joe Rich, speaking to commissioners on Thursday, said the move is one more example of how the airport has become unfriendly toward pilots. He said there have been four straight years of hangar rental increases, a claim that could not be substantiated by the airport authority.

The marketing plan recommended a significant drop in hangar rental rates in both the old and new hangars owned by the airport. A large corner unit in one of the new hangars, according to the plan, rented for $299 a month; the plan recommended dropping that to $270 per month “on a gradual basis as new tenants are added to vacant units.”

T-Hangar F, at the time of the draft marketing plan, had only one unit rented. Units cost $567 a month, but the plan called for dropping that to $299 to attract more tenants and spread the burden across more users.

The county borrowed money to build the three new hangar units several years ago. The annual payment on that debt is around $85,000.

The marketing study was commissioned by the authority and paid for with private donations. Cost was pegged at around $100,000, with $25,000 in annual costs to implement aspects of the plan.

Bowden referred further questions about the plan to Wiedeman and Associations. Rob Barber, who works with Wiedeman, said he was unaware of the authority’s decision to make the move counter to the marketing plan.