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New developments might soon call Victoria Regional Airport home


April 23, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 22, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.

In the 1970s, the only thing at Victoria Regional Airport was the airport itself, said Bibi Moreno, who works at Avis Rent-A-Car. Since then, the airport has attracted more businesses and the county wants to attract even more.

A drive down the roads outside the Victoria Regional Airport reveals many properties. A restaurant, a cabinet shop, even educational gardens. And soon, more businesses might call the place home.

Plans are in the works to breathe new life into the area surrounding the airport.

More than half of the airport's 1,700 acres is available for development, Airport Manager Jason Milewski said. The other half has runways and the like.

"Just having property sit here empty or with very little business on it doesn't help the community at all," he said, noting most similar-size airports draw a majority of their revenue from non-aviation sources. "We have this asset owned by the taxpayers, and we want to make the best use of it that we can."

Preparations for development began around 2007, when the county began cleaning up airport property and tearing down old buildings. The next step is to begin marketing available space.

Small and large businesses, ranging from retail sites to industrial companies and more are all possibilities, Milewski said.

The property has paved roads, water and sewer lines, he said, and rental prices are based on size, location and the type of business built. An oil service business tucked off to the side of the property would not pay as much as a retail business that took space in a higher-visibility area, for instance.

"We're not only trying to develop the airport, but we're trying to consider what type of use the business would have and get the most appropriate location," Milewski said.

It takes teamwork to get such projects under way, said Gary Burns, Victoria County commissioner for Precinct 4.

He recalled an aircraft mechanics company previously interested in the airport. Although the deal fell through when the company was unable to get funding, he said several organizations worked to bring the company in.

The Victoria Economic Development Corp. worked with the organization, showing their management the city and providing information, and Victoria College developed an education program to train mechanics.

"It's pretty cool to sit back and watch and be a part of," he said, explaining the development corporation really helped to seal the deal on the top-secret project.

Victoria is one of the few cities in the nation that still maintains an Essential Air Service contract, said Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. Because of that contract, which provides air service between Victoria and Houston, it's important to not only find ways to attract business to the site, but also to attract passengers to local flights.

"We're working with United Express to look at scheduling, plane size and so on, so we can continue the viability of the airport," Vivian said.

Development would benefit the entire community, said Bibi Moreno, a rental agent with Avis Rent-A-Car. Avis has operated a location at the airport for about 13 years, Moreno said.

Between increased drilling activity, Caterpillar's incoming plant, local events and more, Avis' business is already up, she said. Customer comments also indicate visitors would like to see more growth.

"People keep asking if we have little stores, and they want to know why we don't have any hotels out at the airport," she said. "I just tell them, 'I don't know. I guess you'd have to ask the mayor.'"

Moreno, a Crossroads native, said she remembers back in the 1970s, when the only thing at the airport was the airport itself.

"It's really grown," she said. "Different businesses, a new restaurant. It's good to see. I think it's good for everybody."

Milewski said there was no definitive timeline for the project. Commercial development depends on the national economy.

"This certainly will not be an overnight endeavor," he said. "But, small steps in the right direction will help us get there eventually."



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