Organizational and regional growth occurs when collaborative partners create and execute strategic plans. Such is the environment in the Columbus, Ohio region that has driven development at Rickenbacker International Airport.
Rickenbacker is a joint use military-cargo airport that historically had large operating deficits. Rickenbacker is now profitable, due largely to a decision to diversify and pursue developments not traditionally managed by airports. We formed a public-private partnership with Norfolk Southern Railroad to seek federal funds to develop a train/truck intermodal terminal on airport property. Additionally, we partnered with a private real estate joint venture to develop a 1600-acre, logistics centered industrial park at Rickenbacker. The Airport Authority also assumed responsibility for the Fixed Base Operation, which provides fueling and ground handling services to airlines and other users.
The biggest challenge in creating these partnerships and achieving financial success involved engaging many different stakeholders and getting them to buy into the vision. Rickenbacker is located in two counties with many small communities surrounding the airport. Everyone eventually came to understand that they would all benefit more by partnering and collaborating. Today, Rickenbacker is a large economic engine for our 11-county Columbus region. There are over 20,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of over $2.8 billion generated by Rickenbacker.
A great example of community collaboration with the private, public and non-profit sectors is the Columbus Partnership, which is an organization of over 50 CEOs. I sit on that board and also work closely with Columbus 2020, the regional economic development entity that participates in joint business development efforts for the Rickenbacker Inland Port. These partnerships are so important and help engage many stakeholders for the common good. This is the part of my position that inspires and motivates me the most—making a difference by helping create strategic opportunities for businesses and economic growth for the region.
Elaine Roberts is the President and CEO of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.