JAA courts ‘prime players’
In recent years, trips to the Paris Air Show have been a turbulent subject for both public officials and taxpayers.

Jacksonville Aviation Authority Executive Director Steve Grossman told the Jacksonville Aviation Authority board of directors Monday that the recent trip was a valuable opportunity for potential economic development.

Grossman and a JAA marketing official attended the annual show June 20-26 and spoke with several high-profile companies about expanding or bringing business to Jacksonville.

“They want to bring operations here,” he told the board. “It’s a matter of the right situation, right contract.”

Specifically, Grossman said he talked with officials of Saft, Embraer, Alenia, Boeing, Kaman, Lockheed Martin and Omega during the trip, all of which he called “prime players” in manufacturing and associated air industries.

Alenia has attempted to conduct business with the authority in the past but did not because of reduced orders by the Department of Defense, yet Grossman said the company is still high on Jacksonville as a market.

Officials of Cornerstone, the economic development arm of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, were part of the contingent of eight who attended the 49th annual show.

In a news release, Cornerstone said the trip resulted in meeting with 16 prospective companies and four new companies looking at Northeast Florida, all in the fields of aircraft and aviation parts manufacturing and maintenance repairs.

The statement said several “placed this region on their short list for consideration.”

“The aerospace industry is a major force in our region and our attendance is an investment in our economic future,” said John Haley, Cornerstone senior vice president of business development.

Grossman said attending the show is an effective means for prospecting.

“The ability to talk with these business leaders and get them all in the same place will lead to better things,” he said.

According to Cornerstone, more than 20,000 people are employed in aviation and aerospace in Northeast Florida. The sector is considered one of Cornerstone’s target industries for development.

In other action at Monday’s JAA meeting:

• The board approved a 2011-12 budget consisting of more than $65.4 million in revenues and just more than $44 million in expenses. It projects $19.8 million in operating income before depreciation and amortization and a 30.3 percent operating margin. “This really, I believe, is more of a status quo budget,” said Grossman.

Information technology is one area that will incur greater expenses, he said, as the authority is working on an information technology master plan. It will be presented to City Council before the fiscal year that starts in October.

CFO Richard Rossi said he believed it was a “good budget” and both he and Grossman said projected revenues might be a little on the aggressive side. General budget assumptions include a 4.5 percent increase in enplanements, a 1.5 percent increase in landed weights and a 4.1 percent increase in concessions over fiscal 2010-11.

• The board also approved a severance package for former JAA Chief Operating Officer Ernestine Moody-Robinson, who Grossman relieved in April. Under the agreement, Moody-Robinson will remain on administrative leave through the rest of the calendar year and then remain on the books to use up her 300 hours of leave time. Grossman also will provide a letter of recommendation.

• The board also said goodbye to members of the legislative and executive branch. Mayor John Peyton and City Council member Ronnie Fussell, who serves as the board Council liaison, were both thanked for their efforts through the years. Both leave office Friday.

David Chapman, Staff Writer

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