Following neighborhood outcry over a proposed name change to Craig Airport, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority board of directors unanimously voted Monday to retain the name as part of its rebranding effort.
The new name of the Arlington area facility will be Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.
Arlington area residents turned out in force at a town hall meeting Thursday at Ed Austin Regional Park to hear from JAA Executive Director and CEO Steve Grossman and to oppose the name change.
Council members Clay Yarborough and John Crescembini attended the Monday meeting to speak on behalf of the residents, asking the board to keep the Craig Airport name intact.
Each said he didn’t believe the name change was necessary, and Crescembini urged the board to rebuild community trust.
Grossman said it was clear from the town hall meeting that the Craig name was important to a number of groups in the community.
The airport’s namesake, James Craig, was a World War II aviator who died at Pearl Harbor.
Grossman said the rebranding efforts have so far been well received by JAA tenants and other companies. JAA operates four airports.
While Jacksonville International Airport will keep its name, Herlong Airport becomes Herlong Recreational Airport and Cecil Field becomes Cecil Airport.
Sentiment on Craig ranged from closing the airport altogether to doing nothing, said Grossman, but the rebranding efforts are intended to help grow the brand and further help JAA create economic development in the region.
“We believe all of our facilities need to grow,” said Grossman following the meeting. “I believe Craig (Airport) is an important element of that.”
Grossman said residents took the town hall opportunity to voice their mistrust in the authority on potential runway extensions at Craig Airport.
Grossman has denied that there are plans for a runway extension at Craig Airport, and JAA board Chair Ernie Isaac agreed.
“When and if it comes up, we’ll have a dialogue with the community,” said Isaac. “Nothing is in the works.”
Grossman said that while the business community understands the need to expand tenants and increase business at Craig, the challenge will be to engage residential communities in smaller groups to discuss the issues and re-establish trust.
Ideally, he’d like to meet with homeowners’ associations and other groups of five to 10 people and “define a common vocabulary,” which he said was key to coming to an understanding.
“I’ve been here for 16 months,” said Grossman. “I didn’t expect it to just happen overnight.”
In other news from the meeting:
• The board approved parking rate adjustments at Jacksonville International Airport that will take effect Feb. 1. Rates at daily surface and economy Lots 1 and 2 will be lowered by $2, while economy lot 3 will be lowered by $5. The hourly garage and daily garage rates will increase $2. The rate change is intended to free up spaces at the hourly garage for “meeters and greeters” and encourage patrons to use all the parking facilities. Incremental rates in garages and daily lots will remain the same at $1.50 per 20 minutes.
• Following the board meeting, Grossman spent his early afternoon at Jacksonville University’s Davis College of Business to speak to the Economic Roundtable of Jacksonville about the business of JAA and Cecil Airport. Close to 50 people attended, including U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve come through this great recession in pretty good shape,” said Grossman, though he noted a 5 percent reduction in staff. Five of the last seven months have seen a passenger increase from the prior year, he said.