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Detroit Regional Aerotropolis takes off again with new name and new leader

Goodbye, Detroit Regional Aerotropolis. Hello, VantagePort.

The economic development effort to attract transportation-centered companies and industries to developable land between Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run airports is taking off with the naming of its first CEO and the launches of a new rebranding strategy and marketing plan.

The new name, VantagePort, and the new CEO, Tim Keyes, will carry on the work -- and successes -- of what was the Detroit Regional Aerotropolis, which formed in 2006 and in the nearly seven years since claims to have facilitated nearly 2,500 new jobs and more than $300,000 million in investment by small and large businesses.  While economic development has materialized, much of the work by the Aerotropolis board, including Wayne and Washtenaw County and state officials, has focused on information gathering, planning and preparation to achieve the goal of creating as many as 60,000 jobs and $10 billion in investment in 25 years. 

The goal is to shape 100,000-plus acres of land in, around and between the two airports into a global logistics hub by spreading the word about the area's convenient, potentially money-saving access to air, water, rail and highway and to make clear the benefits that might be reaped by companies needing these things to move their products, people and information all over the world.

Keyes,the new CEO and former director of economic development for the city of Romulus, has been a part of Detroit Regional Aerotropolis since the beginning and is charged with executing a new strategic and marketing plan that was written by Greyhill Advisors, a global site selection and and economic development consultant from New York, and the rebranding that was the work of Applied Storytelling, which has offices in Detroit and Oakland, Calif.

Metromode took a look at the plans and the concept of airport-centered economic development, in this 2011 story.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kelly Chesney, Business Leaders for Michigan

Alternative energy at Oakland County Airport brightens bottom line

All the eco-conscious bells and whistles that earned Oakland County International Airport a LEED Gold certification are also saving the county money by running at about half the utility costs prior to energy-focused rebuild.

According to Oakland County the new airport operates at 44 percent greater efficiency. From October 2011 through March 2012 the average cost of utilities dropped from 49 cents per square foot to 27.5 cents per square foot.

Features such as wind and solar electricity generators, a solar hot water heater, geothermal heating and cooling, fluorescent and LED lighting and, one of the more obvious for passengers, a living wall of tropical plants that clean the indoor air.

“These are real savings,” Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson says in a statement announcing the utility cost analysis. “The energy efficient technology is part of the wow factor business and general aviation travelers encounter when they use the new terminal as their gateway to the region.”

“The airport has a great impact on southeast Michigan,” says Oakland County Director of Central Services J. David VanderVeen. He oversees the airport - the second busiest in Michigan. The airport, which is located in Waterford, underwent a $7.5 million update last August. Airport user fees and federal and state grants covered the cost.

“Nearly every Fortune 500 company flies through here in the course of a year and it has a $175 million impact on the region,” he says.

Source: Bill Mullan, media and communications officer, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

Oakland County Airport first LEED-certified terminal in Michigan

Oakland County's new and improved airport opens next week with a facility that's a better match for the high-flying clientele that comes in and out of it. It's also an example of how to build an eco-conscious airport.

The new Oakland County International Airport is one of a handful of LEED-certified general aviation airport terminals in the country, Michigan's first and Oakland County's first LEED-certified government building. LEED is Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design, a coveted distinction from the US Green Building Council.

All told, the project cost $7.5 million, with $2 million coming from federal government.

The green, energy-saving features include wind and solar power sources, geothermal heating and cooling, and LED and fluorescent lighting. There are also electric car charging stations and a living wall in the lobby. The wall, where a collectible bi-plane hangs from the ceiling, is made of green plants watered by captured rainwater, says Airport Director David Vanderveen.

Solar panels and wind turbines will save about 15 percent in energy usage, Vanderveen says. The geothermal heating and cooling, which pulls 55-degree water from the earth so that energy is saved by not having to  cool or warm water to reach ideal building temps, will save 50 percent or more in energy costs, he says.

The new airport building will house airport administration, US Customs, an office for the Waterford Police Department, and also have a conference room available to airport users and the community, Vanderveen says.

Customs can now process 70 passengers instead of 20. "It will make things much easier for the international travelers and even for our basketball team, the Pistons," he says.

The new airport replaces a 50-year-old facility that was out of date, not compliant with disabled accessibility laws, had leaky roofs and windows, and asbestos. The changes also include new parking lots and airport entrances. The new airport will be dedicated next week during an invitation-only event, and then opened to the community on Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., when 15,000-20,000 visitors are expected.

"It was a worn-out, dysfunctional building," Vanderveen says. "Oakland County has over 700 foreign firms from 33 countries. Virtually every Fortune 500 company comes through this airport. You only have one chance to make a good impression and it can either be positive or negative. We obviously want the impression to be positive, especially when we're welcoming visitors from around the world."

Source: David Vanderveen, director Oakland County International Airport
Writer: Kim North Shine


Charter air service makes $5.8M investment in the Aerotropolis

A charter jet company is expanding at the Detroit Aerotropolis.

Kalitta Charters' $5.8 million investment will pay to move part of its operation from Willow Run to a new facility in Ypsilanti Township and also for an expansion of two of its buildings at Willow Run Airport. About 80 jobs will be created, most of them in Ypsilanti Township, Wayne County spokesperson Brooke Blackwell says.

Kalitta, which also has an operation in Tennessee, considered moving either there or to California but was enticed to expand in Michigan with incentives offered by Wayne's County's Economic Development Growth Engine, or EDGE. EDGE cut some of the improvement costs to Kalitta, a company founded in 2002. At that time, Kalitta had 81 employees. Currently it employs 210 people and provides corporate charters, air ambulance, cargo transportation and other air services.

EDGE is part of a plan to create a Detroit Region Aerotropolis for transportation related businesses to locate near each other in the Aerotropolis boundaries that stretch across Wayne and Washtenaw counties and include Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports.

"We're excited both by Kalitta's decision to stay and by the fact that this investment signifies the future growth in the Aerotropolis," Turkia Awada-Mulllin, EDGE's chief development officer, says in a statement.

Source: Brooke Blackwell, Wayne County spokesperson
Writer: Kim North Shine

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