Airglades on track for construction to start in 2019

CLEWISTON — The Hendry County Board will learn from staff at one of its October meetings about a proposed contract for the project development and environmental (PD&E) study on Airglades International Airport’s planned new cargo facilities outside Clewiston.

The Florida Department of Transportation is financing the preliminary engineering and design of AIA’s Perishable Air Cargo Complex up to $1 million under the county’s joint participation agreement with the agency, according to the staff report. County commissioners selected the firm of Crawford, Murphy & Tilly to do that work in May. Staff were to present the contract at the commissioners’ meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the county courthouse in LaBelle, but the item was pulled.

Meanwhile, several proposals have been received from global investment banking institutions interested in financing parts of the planned air cargo hub in Clewiston, according to Airglades International Airport LLC.

An AIA spokesman called it “a good problem to have,” also reporting that the company’s president and CEO, Fred Ford, met in Washington on Aug. 7 with members of the Federal Aviation Administration’s pilot Airport Privatization Project team to review the status of the airport’s application. Those documents were 70 percent complete, he said. The application already has been OK’d by Hendry County, the state Department of Transportation and preliminarily by the FAA.

“Both parties came away with confidence that we can conclude the process by the end of the year,” Mr. Ford was quoted as saying. “The question now is how early next year construction will begin.”

The project includes construction and operation by a private developer of a new Perishable Air Cargo (PAC) complex including a 10,000-foot runway plus parallel and connecting taxiways (which will require acquisition of about 226 acres), as well as these components:

• A PAC sorting and distribution complex;

• New air cargo aircraft parking apron areas;

• Establishment of on-site air cargo inspection services;

• Installation of Category III Instrument Landing System and Approach Light System (ALS) to Runway 36 plus installation of an ALS to Runway 18; and

• Modification to existing, and development of new, air traffic procedures and instrument approach procedures.

The project also will see construction of other new airport infrastructure: maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, including associated aircraft parking apron; warehouse and cargo sorting and distribution facilities; an aircraft rescue and firefighting facility; an airport maintenance and ground support equipment facility; an air traffic control tower; fuel storage facilities, including above-ground storage tanks; a wastewater treatment facility; plus access roads and automobile and truck parking facilities.

The proposed project also includes site improvements, including stormwater management facilities, installation of utilities and development of related infrastructure.

The FAA accepted Hendry County’s application to privatize this airport back in 2010, under a program established by Congress in 1997 to help generate access to private capital for airport improvement and development. Mr. Ford told the Clewiston Rotary Club during a talk in January that Airglades would be the first publicly owned airport in the United States to be converted under the program.

Neighboring communities are looking forward to the potential boost for the region’s economy. “Like our Americas Gateway Logistics Center project here in Moore Haven,” said Glades County Economic Development Council Director Tracy Whirls, “the Airglades International Airport project has the potential to be a catalyst for economic development in our region.

“With its emphasis on import and export of perishables, Airglades International will create a much-needed niche in the regional perishable supply chain network at the same time it reduces traffic congestion in Miami. It will also allow Miami International Airport to continue shifting their emphasis to lighter, more expensive and hence, more lucrative “belly freight,” such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and electronics as they continue to expand their international commercial passenger service.”

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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