The Springfield-Beckley Airport made several improvements including adding new hangers under the direction of former airport manager Don Smith, who is now retired. The city could have a new manager in place by the end of the year. Bill Lackey/Staff

Springfield searching for new airport manager

Springfield is looking for a new airport manager, who will lead a facility that impacts close to 800 jobs and more about $36 million in payroll.

The Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport has received several upgrades over the past several years including the installation of about 10 new hangars valued at close to $5 million. The airport also serves as a hub for research conducted by the Air Force Research Laboratories into technology that will allow businesses and researchers to test unmanned aerial vehicles beyond the line of sight.

The new manager will continue with work started by former manager Don Smith, who retired in late October after serving the airport for about four years, said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development for Springfield.

“The airport is in good shape,” Franzen said. “Don came on at a time when we had begun certain investments and processes out there.”

The new manager will be responsible for managing issues like capital improvements, the airport’s relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration, and runway and other maintenance projects. Several private companies also operate at the airport, including S Jet and Spectra Jet, a firm specializing in performing maintenance on Learjet and Bombadier challenger Aircraft at the airport.

Information from the Ohio Department of Transportation shows the airport has a significant economic impact in Clark County, directly and indirectly impacting close to 800 jobs and more than $40 million in payroll. Indirectly, ODOT estimates the airport is tied to more than 1,450 total jobs and $78.5 million in payroll.

The new manager plays an important role working with businesses, city officials and the Federal Aviation Administration, said Jim Major, a co-owner at S Jet. The business has grown from four employees a decade ago to more than 30 this year, he said.

“He’s kind of the liaison between us and the city,” Major said of the manager’s role.

Smith helped research potential grants and looked for other funding sources for projects, including a project to add ramp space to allow more room for jets to park while they waited for repairs, Major said. Major said his company is nearing capacity and is expecting to eventually move on to an additional phase of expansion.

“To say we’re at max capacity at this facility is probably an understatement,” Major said.

The next airport manager will be asked to continue developing the airport in a way to continue attracting more business opportunities, Franzen said. The AFRL is working toward FAA approval that will allow research into detect and avoid technology in airspace surrounding the airport, Franzen said.

Along with military research, Franzen said the designation should also allow private firms to research and test technologies that allow drones to operate beyond the line of sight. That could create additional business opportunities for area companies, Franzen said.

“As private industry comes in to utilize the range, they’ll be able to do so under a different permitting process,” Franzen said.

The new manager will also likely be asked to continue looking for potential funding sources to improve infrastructure at the airport. A recent project built about 10 new hangars at the airport.

“There’s a demand still for new hangars,” Franzen said.

Applications are scheduled to be accepted until Nov. 19, according to Franzen. A new manager could be in place by the end of this year, he said.

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