Thursday, February 22, 2018
Business

Tampa International Airport objects to newly-proposed Hernando airport name

BROOKSVILLE — Not so fast.

That's the message Hernando County got from Tampa International Airport officials after word wafted down about a proposal to feature Tampa prominently in a new name for Hernando's airport.

As a result, Hernando County commissioners pulled the request to rename the airport from their meeting agenda Tuesday.

"They say their attorney thinks we're infringing," said County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes. "We're going to punt."

On Friday, Hernando County officials announced a proposal to rename the airport the Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport & Technology Center. It's currently called the Hernando County Airport & Business Complex.

The proposal came after 18 months of research, focus groups, public meetings and design work, said Michael McHugh, the county's business development manager.

It was supposed to be the cornerstone of a new rebranding effort for the airport and surrounding industrial park.

"We just think our name under-represents what we've become," McHugh said after the announcement. "You don't put a Chevy label on a Cadillac. With a high-performing facility like this, we need to describe it appropriately."

But the response was less than favorable.

Officials from Tampa International Airport plan to meet with Hernando County to talk about the name change, said Tampa International spokeswoman Janet Zink.

"We're concerned about protecting our name," she said.

The concern is not about people confusing Hernando's airport with Tampa International, Zink said. It's about confusing the airport with the Tampa Executive Airport, on the east side of Tampa, which is one of TIA's general aviation facilities, she said.

McHugh said he was contacted Monday by counsel from Tampa International.

"They've raised some concerns," he said. "We're more than willing to visit."

He said he doesn't see this as a crimp in the plans for a new airport name and that he doesn't expect a long delay.

Some Hernando commissioners expressed dissatisfaction Tuesday with the name-change process.

Dukes said he was disappointed that county the staff didn't dot all of the I's and cross the T's before unveiling the new name.

Commissioner Jeff Stabins was more blunt, saying the name the county came up with was unsuitable.

"(McHugh) screwed this one up," he said, referring to the length of the name.

Robert Rey of Jet Concepts has been flying out of the Hernando County Airport for 27 years. He said he was concerned that the name migrated away from the airport's history and misrepresented the facility.

"I don't think the name's really representative of who we are as a county, and who we are as a municipality," he said. "We have our own identity. Why do we have to say that we're Tampa's identity?

"It doesn't really make sense."

He said he wasn't consulted about the name change and didn't feel the county had put enough effort into the rebranding effort.

"I think we are shooting from a hip here," he said.

One major complaint: Officials hadn't yet come up with a budget proposal detailing how much the name change would cost.

"That makes absolute no sense to me," Rey said.

Christine Berryhill, who works at the Brooksville Air Center, agreed.

"We're not really part of Tampa," Berryhill said. "We would like to have a name that's maybe more our own than taking over Tampa."

She said she thinks the name should be more historical, perhaps pulling from the airport's rich World War II history.

"Let's rebrand it to something that means something to the people in the area," she said.

McHugh said the new name is a valuable improvement.

It would help the area's marketability and better reflect what the airport has become — an award-winning aviation and business complex — he said.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.

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