Wednesday, November 30, 2016


BROWNSVILLE AIRPORT - AN ECONOMIC ENGINE ON THE MOVE

Mr Bryan Walker, Director of Aviation at the airport gave me an hour of his time to educate me so I can educate my readers about the economic movement at the airport.  We got along in part because in my questions I always made sure I would understand if confidentiality agreements or government regulations limited what he could say.  He was very forthcoming when the rules allowed for same.

THE AMAZING NEWS FIRST

Brownsville has officially returned to an international airport which is more than charter flights to Mexico.  American and United when issues in Houston or Dallas necessitate are redirecting international fights into Brownsville to clear customs here, and then continue on to Houston and Dallas where the passengers are clear to leave without any addition custom checks.  This reality proves we can handle these planes and customs for a large number of passengers.  It promotes Brownsville and its airport.

Several private services are landing 737 and similarly large planes in Brownsville on a regular basis. Once again this proves Brownsville can handle these planes.

Sorry the above rendition of the prospective new airport is not better. My editor seems to have disappeared from my computer so I could not crop the picture and make it straighter.

First I am told we are probably at about a 60% certainty this is what the airport will look like. In preparing for this story someone bad mouthed the new airport as still being smaller than Harlingen. If you have been to their airport in Harlingen, you know it is a poorly designed overdone airport with an incredible amount of wasted space which is costing the airport money.   The AC bill for endless square feet no one is using costs money.  Bigger is not better.  The right size with availability for  growth as needed is how a smart person does it.

The new airport is perfect for our needs.  As demand grows so to will the new airport.

NEW AIRLINES


While Brownsville will turn down no airline, within reason, it would prefer a seasonal airline at this time, until the new facility can better accommodate a full time airline.  It does not help our image to bring in a full time airline which will be difficult to accommodate at this time.  While Mr. Walker would not disclose confidential discussions, my impression is there are small airlines he wants to bring to the airport, but there is really nothing on the table for a deal in the near future,.  I am fine with this.  United and American are flying at near capacity.  We do not want to be known as the city which brings in new airlines before we are ready, and then they fail.  We are about 2 years away from the new terminal which will be able to handle several new airlines.  As the terminal gets near to completion we will have something to show the other airlines.  Now to be fair, natural paper work and regulation issues could delay the completion of the airport but it is underway and there is no going back, so just be patient.

THE RUNWAY

Here the information gets sketchy, but not because anyone is trying to hide anything but because the runway expansion is tied to the demands of vendors working with Space X and SATA, the Italian manufacturing company investing in Brownsville.

It is no great secret the airport was neglected for years.  In fact the master plan the airport must follow has expired so a new one is being developed, or may actually already be developed.  I failed to do the follow-up question on that one..  We had an airport board in a perpetual malaise.  It is all changed.  I am being told the airport board is starved for information and evidence of progress.  This is good.

There are two runways on the table.  The 10,000 linear foot runway, and the 12,000 linear foot runway.  Such as the new terminal we are about 2 years away on the 10,000 linear foot runway, maybe longer.  The land, easements etc for the 10,000 linear foot runway are in place.  But there is a lot of paperwork which still needs to get done such as cost benefit analysis, environmental impact etc.  Mr. Walker is convinced while some tweaking may be needed along the way, always to be expected, everything looks good.  He anticipates no problems from the FAA.  This runway will handle anything anyone tries and throws at us.  If everything takes three years, and meets Space X and SATA demand I will be fine.

Part of the delay is natural.  I will put this in simple terms.  Before the new runway can be worked on, construction wise, but not engineering wise, another runway has to be upgraded to be able to handle Brownsville's needs.  Only then can the other runway be closed to complete the new one.  But during the process the engineering and all studies and paperwork will be moving forward, so they will be ready.  You know what, if it takes more than two years, I am fine.  What I care about is the evidence. It is real this time.  Also Space X suppliers and SATA, have time tables which need to be met for their needs. So they will help push this along.  Brownsville is not alone.  The state and federal government know there are timetables we must meet, and they will work with us.

BROWNSVILLE IS MOVING FORWARD AT A GOOD AND STEADY PACE

What is happening is, outsiders see we are a gem in the raw, and are taking advantage of what we have to offer.  It frustrates me that if we were a New England coastal city with the same amenities we have now, we would be called quaint with a lot to offer.  But ignorant racists, trying to make money are defining us in a negative light.  The BV has always denounced these trolls, and will continue to denounce these trolls.

Brownsville is moving forward at a good and steady space.  I do not want to be McAllen, although I really want a book store.  McAllen has a lot to offer, but it is furnace in the summer and does not have the charm of a coastal city.  To each his own. Be happy where ever you choose to live.

I watch every day new construction in Brownsville and change.  Our developers are building housing for all income levels, which is good.  At Four Corners the northeast corner use to be a dump.  It now has a liquor store well kept, and the old dilapidated Chines restaurant is nearly remodeled with new tenants ready to move in.  In fact 12 years ago, Four Corners was basically abandoned and is now all new businesses.

Shopping centers all over town are redoing the facades of the buildings making them look like new construction.

The only people bad mouthing Brownsville as not moving forward are people who do not live in Brownsville or lack the gas money to drive from McAllen to see the truth.

I am not saying we cannot do better and do not need change.  We nearly did a complete sweep of BISD,  We need to do it with the city commission in May.  We need new vision.  Our city and county leaders have not brought this great change, outside corporations and the governor have brought our progress forward.  We now need local leadership which can do a better job at marketing Brownsville and understand Brownsville and Cameron county need to be one.  The extraterritorial jurisdiction war Brownsville is fighting in court and against our neighboring cities must end.

We need a city commission which can find a use for downtown.. Ben Neece and I have had our differences.  But I am never about yesterday, I am about the here and now.  If he runs against John Villarreal and he shows a vision for downtown and believes Brownsville and Cameron county must be one, I will be his biggest supporter.  Ben walked the walk and invested a lot of time and money in downtown, so we know he is not mere words.

But we need a change in how we see downtown.  Go to Dallas - they will tell you downtown was dying.  The city gave tax abatement and incentives to turn old warehouses and stores into lofts and apartments, and people bought them.  This then lead to new businesses to support the new residents of downtown.  UTRGV employees and students need housing.  This is where you begin.  Meet with them along with TSC students and staff and find out what they want, and then meet with developers to develop old buildings and warehouses into lofts and apartments.  People can walk to work.  It will bring in new business.

It's about vision.


THE BV, ALWAYS LOOKING TO PROMOTE BROWNSVILLE, WHILE TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT ITS PROBLEMS

To Mr. Walker at the airport, thank you for your time, and thank you for coming to Brownsville to make our airport all it can be.  I finally have confidence in our airport's future. To my readers, Mr. Walker was a great hire, and is a very smart diplomat.  He will navigate Brownsville with ease and make our airport into an amazing economic engine, so long as he gets the support he needs, which he seems to feel he is getting.  On that note I have to say it seems the city is doing its job.  Good for the city.

1 comment:

Ruben Valdez said...

Booby, Nice work on this article....A lot of good information and I'm sure you're read on Mr. Walker is spot on. The recap of your interview with Mr. Walker was not only educational but will give readers hope and I have not doubt that in the long term and under Mr. Walker, the airport and city will really explode in terms of growth and draw more companies and businesses to Brownsville.

Once again, well done Bobby.