by David Chapman, Staff Writer
Cecil Airport currently has 3,000 people working within its boundaries, but Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said he expects that to grow to 8,000-9,000 in the next 10 years.
Within five years, he expects more than 5,000 people will be working among the civil, defense and aviation companies on the Westside property. That includes companies and facilities he expects will be created or relocated.
Grossman said the authority has daily talks with defense and civilian companies interested in bringing business to Cecil.
“Cecil Airport is one of the most successful military base conversions in the country,” he told more than 50 members of the Meninak Club of Jacksonville on Monday.
A Base Realignment and Closure decision in 1993 led to the base’s closing in 1999 and subsequent conversion to a civil and military airport — and now spaceport.
“I think the economic impact of Cecil today is at least equal to when the Navy was at Cecil,” he said.
His reasoning: many of the people who were a part of the base also lived and shopped there, not feeding as much into the local economy, while the 3,000 people who work there now have higher wages, live away from their jobs and spend more in local businesses.
The anticipated job growth also includes military personnel who chose to retire in Northeast Florida and have the training and experience many of the companies at Cecil desire, he said.
“Cecil and JIA are both going to be growth magnets for this city,” Grossman said, later adding: “It really is a success story and something we’re proud of.”
He said the authority generally has about a 30 percent profit margin and surplus cash is invested in the authority’s capital plans to help fuel economic growth.
Grossman also discussed potential long-term success with the designation of Cecil as a spaceport — the only such urbanized facility in the U.S.
He said for about $200,000, people can sign up for a suborbital flight — and the list has 500 people.
Grossman said faster travel to areas such as Europe and Tokyo would be possible with such flights. He said a flight from Jacksonville to Europe would take about an hour, while a trip to Tokyo would be about 90 minutes, making it possible for business travelers to use the service in a daytrip.
The pricetag that comes with such a flight is about $50,000, but compared to the $10,000-$20,000 cost for a first-class flight to a similar destination “it’s not that bad,” Grossman said.