Airport officials strategize for upcoming projects

When a new commercial terminal opens in the fall of 2015, Minot airport officials hope to be prepared for a change in airport operations.

Members of the Minot City Council’s Airport Committee, airport staff and others with interests at the airport met Wednesday to engage in strategic planning for the next two to five years.

Strategic planning for the airport is long overdue, said airport committee chairman Jim Hatlelid.

“We have needed it, quite honestly, for a long time,” he said. “It gives us direction: Where do we want to be in 10 years? What do we want to look like?”

“We just wanted to get key stakeholders involved in this discussion,” added airport director Andrew Solsvig. He said Wednesday’s meeting was a first step in the process of taking a long-term view of airport operations.

“The goal really is to look at the expansive and exciting growth that’s occurring in Minot and to give the airport manager and the city some tools,” said Kim Kenville, a University of North Dakota instructor and a private consultant who facilitated Wednesday’s meeting. “We are just trying to really give them some ideas and strategies for those things they need to be looking at, going into the next five years.”

The strategic planning process differs from development of a master plan, which typically is a 20-year planning document. Strategy planning looks at business operations, said Kenville, who noted this is the first effort of this type for Minot International Airport.

Opening a terminal that is triple the size of the existing terminal brings challenges in terms of how it will be managed and maintained, she said.

Airport officials anticipate adding personnel but haven’t determined how many new staff members may be needed. The growth at the airport is likely to require services not currently available, prompting the need for outside business services or new businesses to locate at the airport, Solsvig said.

There’s always going to be unanticipated events with a project as large as Minot’s terminal, but the goal of strategic planning is to limit the surprises, Kenville said.

Participants in Minot’s strategic planning are looking at what airports of slightly larger passenger loads are doing, Kenville said one of her tasks will be to examine the ideas being presented and decide what is theoretical and what is actionable. Wednesday’s discussion included the pros and cons of forming a separate airport authority, which brings increased flexibility but also potential loss of city services or access to city bonding.

“So it needs real careful consideration before you go down that road,” Kenville said.