Airport authority predicting modest 2.5 percent growth in passenger traffic
Jun 27, 2016
By David Bauerlein

Passenger traffic at Jacksonville International Airport will increase a modest 2.5 percent in the coming fiscal year, according to estimates used to develop the facility’s budget that was approved Monday.

Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said the uptick in travelers “beats the heck out of a decrease” but it still is a relatively slow rate of growth.

“We have adequate facilities to meet the demands for the foreseeable future, so really we’re talking on the operating budget about maintaining those facilities to the best of our abilities,” he said.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority board unanimously approved a $52.1 million operating budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year that represents a 6.5 percent increase in spending. The number of employees would rise to 286 positions, which is an increase of seven positions over the current year.

The budget also includes pay raises. The authority negotiated a 3 percent increase for employees represented by unions, and the amount of increase will be similar for non-union employees.

In other business, the board approved a land swap with the city to help move forward the huge distribution center project on the Northside code-named Project Rex.

The aviation authority will provide 0.86 acres of land that will enable the city to smooth out a curve in Pecan Park Road in the area identified as the future site of Project Rex, which might be a distribution center for Amazon. The city in exchange will give the aviation authority the same amount of land along another strip of Pecan Park Road.

The board also got an update from Grossman on the U.S. Navy’s departure from Cecil Airport. The Navy had been leasing space from the aviation authority at the Westside airport while the military did work on the runways at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. With the work on military base’s runways and airfield complete, the Navy is in the process of moving back its aircraft and flight operations.

Grossman said the Navy’s temporary use of Cecil Airport, which used to be a military base, worked out well for the authority. The aviation authority netted $1.75 million in the current budget year from the Navy.

Grossman said the Navy’s use of Cecil Airport also developed a good relationship that could pay off down the road if the Navy needs more space to take care of its ongoing needs.

“All in all, it has been an excellent experience,” Grossman told the board.

He said the Navy benefitted as well because it would have paid for more to transfer its operations to military bases in other parts of the country if Cecil Airport had not been an option.