BROOKSVILLE — Officials affiliated with the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport have said a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility could be a marketing tool, a draw to more international commerce, and a driver for economic development.
Now, with a draft of a feasibility study ready for Thursday's Hernando County Aviation Authority meeting, they know what else to call such a facility — expensive.
Still, the report from aviation authority consultant Michael Baker Jr. Inc. stated that some communities open a facility even if it never pays for itself because its benefits go beyond the dollars and cents on a balance sheet.
The discussions about customs originated with two international air ambulance services now housed at the airport. Any airport tenant that does international business must stop at an airport with a customs office before returning home to Brooksville.
"The additional airport stopover requires Brooksville tenants and visitors to spend additional money on fuel, maintenance and crew costs,'' Baker's report said.
In addition to saving money by having customs checks done at Brooksville, "there may also be a potential to capture additional aircraft traffic and economic development opportunities both on the airport and within Hernando County.''
The consultant surveyed four businesses at the airport that might use customs: Jet I.C.U., Corporate Jet Solutions, American Aviation and Global Jetcare, which estimated a total of 375 customs clearances each year.
The airport would also have to provide the customs facility at no cost to the federal government and would pay the required costs and fees.
Three possibilities for facilities were explored by the consultant. One would combine the Business Development Department in the same wing as the airport staff in the current airport office. That would cost an estimated $220,000 plus the cost of replacing the conference room.
The second scenario would buy an existing hangar site for $485,000 and build a new $420,000 facility.
The third possibility would pick a new site and build a new building at the cost of approximately $1.1 million.
In addition, the airport would be responsible for $148,874 per inspector in the first year and $123,438 in the following years. Data processing costs, which are also the airport's responsibility, would run up to $21,062 in the first year and up to $17,640 in the following years.
"That's what it's going to take to get it here,'' said Brooksville airport manager Kevin Daugherty.''
While the price is high, he said that the customs facility is worth exploring further because his thought was that business would build on business into the future.
"I think this thing is going to pay for itself,'' Daugherty said, "but maybe not in the first year or the second year.''
Commissioner Dave Russell, the liaison with the airport, was less optimistic. "It's a pretty big nut'' to crack, he said. To support it, he said, "I'd have to see a very significant demonstration of the financial feasibility.''