Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Business

New control tower at Hernando airport brings hope for economic development

BROOKSVILLE — In the distant darkness, a flickering light approached on the runway.

Air traffic controller Bill Horner spoke into his headset.

"The wind is calm," Horner said.

Then he cleared the plane for takeoff.

Moments later, the King Air 200 turboprop came fully into view, speeding by on the runway below. It gently lifted off.

With that departure, the Hernando County Airport entered a new era — the era of controlled airspace.

At 7 a.m. Monday, the airport's new air traffic control tower opened. From the vantage point of the 82-foot-tall tower, U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent and County Commissioner Dave Russell watched the historic moment.

As the sky began to lighten, Horner and tower manager Jimmy Mills shuttled back and forth from one screen to another in the control tower, talking on their headsets and approving another takeoff, this one by Jet ICU, an air ambulance company.

Russell reflected on the long road it took to approve and build the tower, which offers "safety and the prospect of economic development and growth."

A pilot himself, he visited the airport several weekends ago and was shocked to see airplanes coming and going in all directions.

"It was just downright frightening," Russell said.

He told the controllers: "We love having you here."

Until Monday, pilots who flew in and out of the airport south of Brooksville had the freedom of coming and going as they pleased. Now, Mills said, "they have to call us and let us know who they are and what they want to do."

Eighty percent of the funding for the $2.25 million tower came from state aviation grants and 20 percent came from money the airport collects from businesses that lease space in the adjacent industrial areas. The five full-time air traffic controllers are employed by Robinson Aviation and will be paid through the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport, a former World War II airfield with runways capable of handling large jets, is the centerpiece of the county's industrial parks. Nugent said the tower should serve as a catalyst for growth in a county that is trying to diversify its economy.

"It's exciting times," he said. "I go all over this district, and this is a jewel. I know a lot of people would love to have this."

County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes got to see the historic moment from the opposite view of those in the tower. He was one of several local dignitaries who were on the first flight.

Dukes said he hopes the tower offers business and industry something they can't get elsewhere.

"I'm just looking forward to what the future holds for this airport," he said.

Aviation Authority chairman Gary Schraut, who was also on the plane, described the flight as "neat."

"I sat there looking out at the tower, looking at all the work that it took to take us to this day," he said.

He said he believes the payoff will be new and existing business expansion at the airport.

"I think that when they see that the county was willing to make an investment in the airport, maybe they're not afraid to make an investment in the airport as well," he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

 
Comments
Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Could you pay an unexpected $400 expense?More than four in 10 Americans said they couldn’t without borrowing money or selling something, according to the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released Tuesday.That’s a...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target is renovating more than 1,000 stores by the end of 2020, including two SuperTarget locations in New Tampa and Clearwater.The Clearwater store’s makeover — which the corporation calls ‘‘reimagining" — just wrapped up, according to Target spoke...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

ST. PETERSBURG — Ford’s Garage, a car junkie’s haven, has proven to be popular eatery across the state.Now it has a chance to drive customers to its seats in St. Petersburg. The restaurant opens its ninth location downtown Wednesday at 200 First Ave....
Updated: 8 hours ago

The hostile work environment checklist: How toxic is yours?

Workplace stress is hardly a new phenomenon. Everyone has a bad day (or even month) at work now and then. Your client presentation didn’t go as well as planned; your boss didn’t fall head over heels for your proposal; you had to stay late to finish a...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Career Q&A:

Career Q&A:

Q: Despite having a stellar employment record, I am concerned about two incidents mentioned during my recent performance review. Both involved accusations which were completely unfair.Several months ago, our human resources manager told me that I was...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tampa-backed company with candy-like coffee thins inks deal with Dunkin’ Donuts

Tampa-backed company with candy-like coffee thins inks deal with Dunkin’ Donuts

TAMPA — Tampa-based private equity firm ProspEquity Partners paid $18.2 million less than three weeks ago for a two-thirds stake in Tierra Nueva, a Miami company with a new idea for coffee, and already it has some big news.Tierra Nueva has inked a de...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Saturday was Jacob Kosinski’s big day. His whole family, many from out of town, saw the Charleston, South Carolina, student graduate from his Christian-based homeschool program with a 4.89 grade point average and the coveted honor of summa cum laude....
Updated: 11 hours ago
It’s picking time at Brooksville blackberry farm, one of a handful in the region

It’s picking time at Brooksville blackberry farm, one of a handful in the region

BROOKSVILLE — Black follows blue in the berry patches of Hernando County, but blackberry proponents claim they’re worth waiting for.Today’s blackberry brambles are thornless and don’t require bending over to pick. Their fruits are mouth-full juicier,...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Amazon is selling facial recognition to Orlando law enforcement - for a fistful of dollars

Amazon is selling facial recognition to Orlando law enforcement - for a fistful of dollars

Amazon has been providing facial recognition tools to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando for only a few dollars a month, according to documents obtained by American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, paving the way for a rollou...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Report: Downtown Tampa has least amount of vacant land of top 25 metros

Report: Downtown Tampa has least amount of vacant land of top 25 metros

Tampa is facing major landscape changes as projects like Water Street Tampa gear up. But despite the ongoing and upcoming major development, a new CommercialCafé study says, downtown Tampa has a big challenge with the least amount of vacant land of a...
Updated: 12 hours ago