Expanding air service top priority for director

by John Kenyon

CORRIDOR – Expanding air service, addressing the perception of high fares and marketing what it has to offer are among the first tasks for Tim Bradshaw, the new airport director for The Eastern Iowa Airport.

“I intend to meet with our business partners in the community,” he said. “To show them what we can accomplish, and work with them to get the service they want and meet their business needs.”

Mr. Bradshaw was named last week and will start on June 28. He replaces Dan Mann, who left in late January after announcing his resignation at the end of 2009. Mr. Bradshaw is currently the deputy executive director and chief operating officer for the Louisville Regional Airport Authority in Louisville, Ky.

He will earn $141,086 annually, which is the same salary that Mr. Mann was earning when he left.

He said air service is the most-talked about aspect of every airport, and that The Eastern Iowa Airport has a good foundation there. Still, there is room for expansion, he said, noting that an analysis of the final destination for travelers departing from Cedar Rapids supports the idea that some direct flights could be added.

“There are 63 people a day flying to the Washington (D.C.) area,” he said. “That would justify some service to Washington, possibly. That would tie well to one of our business partners in Rockwell Collins. And there are five markets like that that we could try to work on.”

The issue of fares is two-pronged: he said he will explore bringing a low-cost carrier to the airport to help compete with other airports in the region. AirTran flies out of Des Moines and the Quad Cities.

“Low-cost carriers are tough to get into, and they often want a subsidy,” he said. “I shy away from that… If it’s sustainable, that’s better for you.”

An effort was made by Mr. Mann and area business leaders in 2007 to provide a $500,000 guaranteed subsidy to Frontier to provide service to The Eastern Iowa Airport. Frontier pulled out of the deal before it could be finalized.

There also is a perception that fares are cheaper elsewhere, particularly in Moline. He said that is a misperception based on people occasionally finding a $200 fare from Moline that compares with a $500 fare out of Cedar Rapids. Overall, he said, the fares are much more comparable.

OPN Architects President Dan Thies, who is chairman of the airport commission offered a similar list of top priorities for Mr. Bradshaw. Work begins this week on a 120-project to move and replace the airport’s main runway, and Mr. Thies said it is a key project for Mr. Bradshaw.

“Beyond that we’re going to want Tim to get fully immersed in the entire Corridor,” he said. “There are a lot of people we’d like to have him meet. We see our relationship with the communities, with the economic development entities in each area as critical in our service and the work we do at the airport in both a business and leisure perspective.”

He also listed expanding air service and marketing the airport to the community as key priorities. Mr. Bradshaw is uniquely qualified to tackle these tasks because of the blend of communication skills and broad knowledge about the aviation industry, Mr. Thies said.

“All of those things combined got our attention,” he said. “I spent time with him and the thing that impressed me a great deal was the research he had done in our market, in our air service, in our communities. The questions he asked of us shared with me an insight into an individual who was, No. 1, interested in our area, but thoughtful about a pretty big career move.”

Mr. Bradshaw said he was drawn to the position because of the airport and the appeal of the Corridor.

“The airport itself really has a great foundation,” he said. “Financially it has a good level of airline service.”

The airport infrastructure, he said, has been impressively maintained, and renovations have been well planned.

The Corridor’s mix of urban and rural also appealed to Mr. Bradshaw and his family. He compared it to Owensboro, Ky., where he worked prior to Louisville.

“The people have been terrific throughout the whole process,” he said. “I was looking for that quality of life. Both (Iowa City and Cedar Rapids) seem to have their own personality.”

He said that doing a better job of promoting the airport’s services throughout the Corridor will be a priority.

“Throughout the interview process the message was loud and clear: this is a regional airport,” he said. “It is situated well to promote regionalism. I think we’re well positioned to do that. I plan to get involved with the community groups in both cities.”

Mr. Bradshaw comes from a larger airport in Louisville. According to the most recent Federal Aviation Administration rankings of primary and nonprimary commercial service airports (data from 2008), Lousiville International is the 66th busiest airport in the country in terms of passenger boardings with 1.8 million, while The Eastern Iowa Airport is 117th with 499,000.

In addition, the Louisville airport is the third-busiest cargo airport in North America and the ninth busiest in the world thanks to its status as a global hub for UPS.

He said his job as chief operating officer in Louisville was important to position himself for a job like that in Cedar Rapids.

That experience was important to the Cedar Rapids Airport Commission when it came to selecting a new director, said Josh Schamberger, the newest member of the five-member group.

“He actually in his first meeting of candidates — and we had some good finalists — he did his homework,” he said. “He said, ‘I can tell you that 63 people a day fly to D.C.’ He spoke at great length about The Eastern Iowa Airport as it relates to service and opening up markets he saw potential in.”
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, who cited the need to get a regional voice on the board, named Mr. Schamberger to the commission this spring. Mr. Schamberger is the president of the Iowa City-Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.