By Karen Di Piazza
Air charter operator Key Air LLC, headquartered at Waterbury-Oxford Airport (OXC) in Connecticut, is in the process of building a new, fixed based operation at Anoka County-Blaine Airport (ANE), near the central business district of Minneapolis. Key Air’s sister company at OXC, Keystone Aviation, a large FBO that also handles the leasing of real estate and hangar space, renovated its facilities a few months ago.
“Key Air will invest more than $20 million for the new facilities at Anoka, and that includes our 35-year lease,” said Brad Kost, president and CEO of Key Air and CEO of Keystone. In addition to Key Air’s FAR Part 135 charter operations, it runs an aircraft management business under FAR Part 91.
Kost said the ANE project is being built in three phases.
“This will include 150,000 square feet of world-class FBO facilities and multiple hangars to accommodate large, corporate aircraft,” he said. “During phase one, we’ll build our new terminal building, hangar complex and fuel farm. Phase two will include additional hangar and ramp space, with the last phase adding additional hangar space.”
Kost said the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns ANE, wants to see the project take shape in time for the 2008 Republican National Convention, Sept. 1- 4, to be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The MAC also wants the facility up and running as events held by the Professional Golfers’ Association are nearing. By Sept. 1, Key Air should have 14,000 square feet of terminal space and 65,000 square feet of hangar space completed.
The groundbreaking ceremony at ANE took place in mid-April. Attendees included Jack Lanners, MAC chairman; Tom Ryan, mayor of Blaine, Minn.; Dennis Berg, chairman, Anoka County Board of Commissioners; and Commissioners Scott LeDoux, Rhonda Sivarajah, Dan Erhart and Robyn West. Additionally, H. John Huenick, vice president of Kraus-Anderson Construction Co., and Hollis Cavner, championship tournament director of the 3M Company, attended the event.
“The MAC needs to relieve air traffic during these events, especially corporate planes,” Kost explained. “ANE is perfectly suited for such aircraft.”
He said because the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area is the most populous urban area in the state of Minnesota, with 188 cities and townships, the Twin Cities are host to a dense aircraft population.
“I don’t foresee having problems on the real estate side, as Keystone will sublease space to major flight departments and private jet operators,” Kost said. “I like the fact that there’s about 116 jet aircraft in the Minnesota area—a mix of private and commercial FAR Part 135 aircraft. The facilities we’re building will create nearly 300 jobs for the area. The local community will benefit in excess of $20 million from our project.
“Business aviation in the area is robust; with a backlog of private jet deliveries, it will remain prosperous. Given the corporate aviation environment that the industry is experiencing, we’re confident and comfortable that our investment dollars will be put to good use.”
Because ANE has infrastructure, including two runways and an airport tower, Kost said investors of the company are confident in building its first facility in the Midwest.
Kost is excited about the company’s future plans of expanding operations in Colorado, New York, Los Angeles, Florida and Texas.
“We’re very serious about expanding and offering first-rate services in the United States,” he said. “We also plan to expand our OXC facilities.”
Kost said the company’s current 200,000 square feet of offices, hangar space, a new restaurant and parking for customers’ private jets aren’t enough. Key Air is willing to invest $20 million for additional acreage, if the state approves of its plans.
“Our OXC facilities that we’ve built have created more than 600 jobs for the industry,” he said.
He added that if the state approves plans for more hangar and parking structures, it could create 400 additional jobs for Connecticut.
For more information on Key Air, visit [http://www.keyair.com] and for Keystone, visit [http://www.keystoneav.com].