By Dominic Welling
Gulfport Biloxi International Airport on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is preparing to open a new $12 million general aviation facility for general aviation service provider ‘Million Air’ later this month – just one of the infrastructure investments that have been completed since Hurricane Katrina devastated the airport in 2005, says its executive director, Bruce Frallic.
He maintains that the 1mppa airport has actually been able to invest and grow more rapidly since the disaster due to its ability to attract both public and private post-Katrina funding.
The new 20,000sqft hanger, which has a section for VIP clients, and an on-site US Customs processing area, is the latest in a string of new developments.
This includes a new $30 million control tower, which will be opened officially in the first quarter of 2012. An expanded passenger terminal opened in 2008, having been increased from 90,000sqft to 172,000sqft, with four additional gates.
Attracting private funding
Frallic says an increase in private and public partnerships, coupled with new investment opportunities, allowed Gulfport Biloxi to rebuild and expand at an incredible pace, despite essentially being destroyed in the storm six years ago.
“We have accomplished an awful lot since Katrina. A lot of opportunities have come our way, which probably would not have done otherwise. In particular the hurricane brought us attention – both financial and otherwise.”
The gateway had been in the middle of a $50 million expansion project to double the size of its passenger terminal in August 2005 when the storm flattened its existing terminal buildings, as well as the car rental, cargo and general aviation facilities.
In the aftermath Frallic says it received unprecedented support in terms of personnel assistance from a dozen neighbouring airports, as well as access to public and private finance. He says in total the airport has received $287 million for rebuild projects.
Of this, $140 million has come from public funds, with the remaining $147 million coming from private investment.
The airport received $70 million through storm related funding from the government, as well as a further $70 million from state funds and the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
However, Frallic is quick to highlight the airport’s ability to attract private funding. “Private investment is the real story for us, and it has come from a whole host of sources. These include private companies that were already doing business with us at the time that Katrina hit, as well as new ones attracted by investment opportunities at the airport,” he says.
Private investment in the airport include $4 million that has been ploughed into the passenger terminal, $17 million on a new parking garage, $6 million on a new rental car facility, $16 million on new general aviation infrastructure, $52 million on two new hotels, and another $16 million on other general infrastructure.
“The financial help that has come from Hurricane Katrina has meant we have been able to start and complete projects much sooner than we would have done otherwise,” Frallic concludes.