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FedEx considers increasing operations at Tri-State Airport

Jul. 19, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The FedEx operation in Huntington may soon grow, as FedEx has tentative plans to move its Charleston postal freight to its facility at Tri-State Airport, airport Director Jerry Brienza told the airport authority board on Thursday.

That means the Boeing 757 that arrives at the airport daily would have two daily flights, which will benefit Tri-State Airport through fuel sales, Brienza said. The company could fuel up at its corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., but to date it's been good about purchasing some in Huntington as well, Brienza said.

Filling up a Boeing 757 requires about 2,000 gallons, and the airport makes about a $2 profit per gallon, he said.

Another potential outcome is that the more FedEx does in Huntington, the more it will see what Huntington has to offer and might consider an expansion there, Brienza said. It's not something that would happen immediately, because FedEx is in the midst of a reorganization, he said.

"Hopefully they'll come out of it bigger and stronger and want to expand, and we'll be ready when they do," Brienza said.

The transfer to Huntington is not finalized but tentatively planned for October.

"It's subject to change but it's looking good," said Eric Thomas, operations manager at the Huntington FedEx.

As the only FedEx Express ramp-sort facility in the state of West Virginia, the Huntington FedEx moves millions of dollars in freight. Currently, it unloads a packed Boeing 757 every morning, and sends the packages out on trucks throughout the region. Every night, the night crew takes packages brought from cities throughout the region, packs up another plane and sends it back to Memphis. It's the only air carrier in the region that can carry heavy freight, or anything over 1,000 pounds, Brienza said.

The Charleston FedEx operation moves a lot of U.S. Postal Service packages and will be bringing that portion of its business to Huntington, Brienza said. It currently flies two FedEx ATR aircraft into Charleston, and will be consolidating that into a second Boeing 757 flight out of Huntington.

"The Parkersburg area is served out of Columbus, and if they did this move, we could take back over the Parkersburg market that we lost," Thomas said.

In other business, the airport will start the bidding process next week for water and sewer infrastructure for the development project on the south side of its property. In preparation for that estimated $2.1 million project, board members approved intergovernmental agreements with the city of Kenova, the town of Ceredo, and the U.S. Army National Guard, all of which have made commitments toward the project. It is being paid largely from state funds, with some financial commitment from the other entities, Brienza said.

He also informed board members that because the one bidder on the planned taxiway rehabilitation project came in $1 million over budget, the airport will forgo that project for other projects that create regular headaches at the airport.

The airport has $1.3 million in Federal Aviation Administration Funds and a $400,000 state match to pay for things like a new generator for the terminal, to fix a slip, to do some paving on parts of the runway that have settled and cracked, to address drainage issues, clean duct work affected by the new heating and cooling system, address sediment buildup at a dam on the property near a residence, and more.

The board also got an update on enplanements, which were down 12 percent for the fiscal year, compared to the previous fiscal year, said Marketing Director Beckie McKinley. Delta Airlines, which left the airport in May 2012, carried 19 percent of the airport's passengers, she said, which indicates that some of that business is being made up elsewhere.

Please send business news items to Jean Tarbett Hardi man at jeant@herald-dispatch. com.

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