Business

Bremerton Airport considering its options

"The Port of Bremerton was saddled with an airport with a hazy future when Alpha Aviation took off in December.Alpha's six-month stay at Bremerton National pitted business enterprise and local pilots against each other.I wish I had a crystal ball, said Port Commissioner Cheryl Kincer, who is uncertain what's beyond the horizon for Kitsap County's largest airport. But Kincer and her colleagues are still determined to court and bring in big business, while appealing to general-aviation pilots.Transitioning this airport from general aviation to a commercial development is going to be a big task, Kincer added. And that effort should go along the lines of benefitting the general aviation crowd.Determination alone won't get the job done. After all, the port was determined to sign Alpha Aviation last July. And now Alpha is the second fixed-based operator to leave the airport in as many years, leaving behind just four viable tenants - the Airport Diner, aviation contractor Doug Lent, aircraft engine maintenance firm Avian Aeronautics and flight school Peninsula Air Group. Alpha Aviation left Bremerton National after squabbles over airplane gas prices. Many general-aviation pilots felt Alpha charged too much, and port officials agreed with the pilots. No one will argue, though, that the airport should not host another fixed-base operator (FBO), as well as businesses that provide commercial and charter flights out of Bremerton. The questions now seem to be who and when? Port Commissioner Bill Mahan suggests the port take a non-traditional and aggressive approach in recruiting new outfits. The commissioners have worked on a marketing strategy for Bremerton National and the port's Olympic View Industrial Park, on the opposite side of State Route 3 from the airport.Not that the airport will necessarily suffer from Alpha Aviation's departure, but many in the industry agree stable business is better than no business.Mahan said planning for the future will involve assessing the airport's selling points, interviews with current and former tenants, and talks with other port districts across the state, as well as the Bremerton Pilots and Tenants Association.The Bremerton Port Commissioners said they welcome that sort of input and hope to hear more in the following weeks. The commissioners say they want to start by filling up empty hangars or others used for storage with aircraft tenants.We should get more airplanes in there instead of junk, Mahan said. Mahan also suggests the port enter into public-private partnerships with prospective tenants - in other words, offer viable businesses incentives to locate at the airport. Mahan said the port should offer competitive lease agreements, port equipment and, above all, remain supportive of that business' goals.Mahan said the port must foster success for any business that becomes a port tenant. That wasn't accomplished in Alpha's case, he said.I know you can't expect a business not to make a profit, Mahan noted. If that's an issue, then we need to attack that. But, if for example, the price of fuel is so high we drive pilots out of the airport, then we should put that good old American competitive system at work."

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