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ILM To Study Business Park, Approves $3M Apron Expansion 

By Johanna F. Still, posted Mar 7, 2022
The New Hanover County Airport Authority will soon seek a consultant's review of its 140-acre business park. (Photo courtesy of ILM)

As Wilmington International Airport (ILM) continues its travel-related expansion plans, airport officials are looking to maximize use of the land that's left on the airport’s home base for business purposes. 

At last week’s New Hanover County Airport Authority meeting, board members gave staff the direction to formulate a request for qualifications for a consultant to conduct a formal inventory of land available in the ILM Business Park and create a park development plan. 

Within about a month, ILM will invite consultants to perform the work, and by early spring or late summer, the airport authority will consider approving a contract, according to facilities director Granseur Dick.

“We're getting roughly halfway through development,” Dick said, citing the availability of land left in the 140-acre park. In November, airport officials approved two unrelated long-term leases: CIL Capital leased 53 acres and Edgewater Ventures leased 30 acres. Both investment teams plan to bring warehouse space to the park, with CIL Capital catering to the life sciences industry via cold storage, and Edgewater specializing in industrial speculative space. 

“Prior to that, leasing was very slow,” Dick said. “I think the community is discovering that we have developable land. And in the county, developable land is getting hard to find,” Dick said. “Previously, [it] felt like the business park was kind of sleepy. And the last six months it's just exploding.”

In September, the airport authority authorized a $40,000 contract with AVCON Inc. to survey and map utilities and infrastructure at the business park. The information gleaned will help airport officials determine whether any additional investment is necessary to improve the site’s shovel-ready status. 

At last week’s Power Breakfast, ILM director Jeff Bourk said growing the business park helps air service development. “The more money the airport can make on the business park, the lower the rates can be for the airlines, and that's a good thing," he said. "That helps with bringing and attracting low-cost carriers.”

ILM is taking steps to attract low-cost carriers, which cater to leisure travelers. At present, a majority of ILM’s passengers are business travelers and the airport's three committed airlines are all legacy carriers. With the terminal expansion open as of last month, ILM has room to accommodate more flights at its three new gates and up to 500,000 more annual passengers. 

The forthcoming business park consultant’s report will address the types of uses the remaining parcels in the business park can or should accommodate as development interest rises. “We want to make sure we're targeting the right companies to finish that development and also looking at the infrastructure that we have, and seeing if there's anything we need to invest in ... to help target some of those,” Dick said. 

Board members also approved a $3 million supplementary agreement with Trader Construction at the authority's March 2 meeting. 

The agreement is a contract add-on to expand the airport’s apron, which is essentially a parking lot for airplanes: "It’s basically a big concrete pad,” Dick said. In September, the board approved a nearly $5.8 million contract with Trader Construction to replace lost apron space from the extended terminal area and increase space for new gates created as part of the expansion.

The initial apron was just over 16,000 square yards, according to Dick. This new agreement tacks on another 13,500 square yards. Construction will not interrupt flight activity. 

Federal Aviation Administration funding was used for the initial contract, but it wasn’t enough to accommodate a large aircraft, Dick said. ILM officials are using “stockpiled funds” to ensure the expanded new apron can accommodate the largest crafts, he said.

The add-on also includes a deicing location for aircraft, which will be necessary for the times – though infrequent – temperatures dip below freezing. 

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