Wilmington Air Park Welcomes Amazon as New Tenant

Wilmington Air Park Welcomes Amazon as New Tenant
Author: 
Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 
September
2019

The landscape at Wilmington Air Park (ILN) in south-central Ohio has been changing steadily for the last few years, and the various airfield and landside improvements are beginning to pay big dividends. On June 26, e-commerce giant Amazon opened a new package sorting facility at the 1,900-acre aviation and logistics business park.  

As part of its air gateway system, Amazon leases space at multiple airports for sorting and forwarding packages flown by “wet-leased” aircraft. This allows the huge web retailer to control all aspects of fulfillment and delivery without having to rely on third parties such as UPS and FedEx. Its five-year lease at ILN was a major win for the Clinton County Port Authority, which owns the air park and contracts LGSTX Services to manage the airfield and facilities. 

With the addition of Amazon’s eight daily flights, ILN now averages 14 flights a day. The associated economic benefits are especially welcome, as the community suffered significant losses when DHL, which previously owned the air park, ended operations there about one decade ago.  

facts&figures

Project: Airfield & Facility Upgrades

Objective: Prepare for Amazon’s air gateway & package sorting operations

Location: Wilmington (OH) Air Park 

Owner: Clinton County Port Authority

Airfield & Facilities Management: LGSTX Services

Airfield Engineering Consultant: Michael Baker Int’l

Investment: More than $4 million over the last 3 yrs.

Funding: Port Authority; OH Transportation Dept. grants; State of Ohio Capital Budget grants

Airfield Improvements: Crack & joint repair on runway & associated pavement; selective concrete slab replacement; new runway visual range system; 2 new windsocks; incandescent lighting & signage is gradually being replaced with LED fixtures

Other Improvements: 2 airport buildings removed to make room for 800 additional parking slots for Amazon employees; new space also helps facilitate vehicle movement & product flow in/out of the sorting facility

“When the Port Authority took ownership of the air park from DHL in 2010, we began marketing it aggressively,” reflects Dan Evers, executive director of the Clinton County Port Authority. “Our goal was to diversify the air park’s economic and employment base.”

By all measures, the Port Authority has achieved remarkable success. The air park had four companies with 700 to 750 employees working throughout its facilities when the Port Authority acquired the air park. Today, it boasts 13 companies that will employ more than 2,000 workers by year-end. 

As the newest and one of the largest tenants, Amazon is the icing on a cake that ILN has been baking for nearly a decade. Other key tenants at the air park include ATSG, Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services, Airborne Global Solutions, Air Transport International, ABX Air, Global Flight Source, LGSTX Services, Santa Rosa Systems, Robert A. Schuerger Co. LPA and JMCC. 

Nearly all of the airpark’s 2.7 million square feet of industrial, office and hangar is currently leased.

Maintain It & They Will Come

ILN has two runways, one of which is currently not in service. Its primary 10,701-foot Category III runway is capable of handling Boeing 747-class aircraft.

“For now, our 9,000-foot runway will remain closed,” says Evers. “However, we have maintained it at a level that would allow us to reopen it quickly with some additional reinvestment. Our primary runway is sufficient for the air traffic we have today.” 

Over the past three years, the Port Authority has invested more than $4 million in aviation-related infrastructure. Improvements include the installation of a new 20-antenna array instrument landing system, enabling the air park to secure FAA Category III ILS certification. “Fortunately, we have good partners in Ohio’s Department of Transportation, Office of Aviation, and have secured critical grant dollars from the state of Ohio, through both ODOT’s Office of Aviation and the state’s capital budget,” says Evers. 

The Port Authority recently hired Michael Baker International as engineering consultant for airfield work. Major components included:

  • 5,820 linear feet of crack sealing;
  • 455 square feet of spall repairs on Runway 4L-22R, Taxiway A1 and Ramp A;
  • 292,917 linear feet of concrete joint resealing on Runway 4L-22R, Taxiway A1 and Ramp A;
  • removing and replacing 25-foot-square concrete slabs: six on Runway 4L-22R, three on Taxiway A, five on Taxiway C, four on Taxiway A1 and 20 on Ramp A;
  • installing a runway visual range (RVR) system; 
  • replacing and relocating two wind cones, one on each end of the runway;
  • gradually replacing current airfield lighting and signage with LED fixtures.

To get the work done, ILN used a series of soft runway closures from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and one full closure for five days in early June. “The tight deadline for getting the airfield work done was a major challenge,” emphasizes Lance Wanamaker, associate vice president with Michael Baker International. “And the rainy weather didn’t help.”

In addition to making airfield repairs and improvements, crews demolished two airport buildings to add a new truck court and accommodate 800 additional parking slots for Amazon employees. The new space also helps facilitate vehicle movement and product flow in and out of Amazon’s two-story sorting facility, which was formerly used by DHL. 

Amazon has invested significantly in renovations to the package-sorting facility, upgrading the building’s docks, making structural modifications to parts of the building and completing significant interior improvements. All told, the company is retrofitting and re-equipping 1.2 million square feet—more than 30% of the entire air park’s total square footage of building space.

Future Looks Bright

Ohio ranks among the top four states in the U.S. for logistics and is ideally situated within a strategic infrastructure network. It boasts the seventh largest highway system in the country and is within 600 miles of 61% of all U.S. and Canadian manufacturing locations.

Located in the heart of Ohio’s aerospace and logistics region, ILN offers easy access to Interstate highways and the metropolitan areas of Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus. It is within 50 to 70 miles of three airports with international passenger service and within a day’s drive of 60% of the U.S. population. The air park also lies within a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ 101), affording another benefit to clients handling international freight shipments.      

Not surprisingly, Evers believes the future is bright for ILN and the surrounding community. “To prepare for Amazon, we’ve had to beef up personnel,” he notes. “From air traffic controllers, field and maintenance staff, even our ARFF staff, we’ve had to gear up to become a 24/7 airport again.”

After DHL left, the Clinton County community resolved to “never let our guard down,” he explains. “We were and are fortunate to have ATSG and its affiliated companies as foundational tenants and vendors. That has been a significant factor in our ability to prepare for aviation-related opportunities.”

The structure of the Port Authority-owned, privately managed airport is unique. Although ILN is a fully certified Part 139 airport and handles both corporate and private air traffic, it does not offer scheduled passenger service. As the largest non-NPIAS (National Plan for Integrated Airport Systems) airfield in the U.S., it does not receive any funds from the FAA. “We are a Part 139 airport, so we do meet all the FAA protocol requirements for operations and systems; but we are 100% self-funded,” notes Evers.

Jeremy Heard, director of airports and facilities for LGSTX Services, proudly notes that the Port Authority has maintained a viable airport suitable for any airline in the world, with a staff of just 25 people. “After DHL departed, it would have been very easy for Clinton County to turn off the lights at the airport,” Heard observes. “But they didn’t, and we made sure that the Port Authority had a facility ready, operable and attractive from a marketing standpoint. The big new tenant, Amazon, took us up on that.”

The challenges have been significant. “It took a lot of work to undertake all the planning and execute all the improvements required for expanded operations in just over a year,” Evers reflects. “We essentially added an entire third shift of operations while ensuring all systems remained rigorous and robust to support existing tenants and air traffic operations. But everyone took up their yoke and plowed their acre.”

Subcategory: 
Cargo

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