Air ambulance company Jet ICU is moving to Tampa.
The service, which had been headquartered at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport for most of the past 14 years, will relocate operations to Tampa International Airport after the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority approved a lease agreement on Thursday.
The company expects to spend $3 million to build a 30,000-square-foot hangar on nearly 2.4 acres of airport land. The airport will receive 72 cents per square foot, or about $75,500 for the first year, though the rate will increase by 2.2 percent each year. The lease is for 20 years, with the option for two, 5-year renewals by the airport.
“They gave us a primo corner lot at the end of the runway,” said Jet ICU director of emergency services Jared Wayt. “We’re hopefully building the crown jewel, the ‘Taj Ma-hangar’ at the airport, if you will.”
Jet ICU has been operating out of a leased hangar in Tampa since July, although a number of its 75 employees had still been working remotely in Hernando County. Along with the move to Tampa, Jet ICU plans this year to boost its fleet from six jets to nine, increasing staff from 75 to about 100, Wayt said.
“The biggest thing, from a Tampa standpoint, is we just have a larger pool of employees to pull from,” he said. “As we’ve been growing, business has gone really well, and we’re just trying to stay ahead of the curve.”
Founded in 2003, Jet ICU had been headquartered at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport since 2007. It typically operates about 300 or more medical flights per year, frequently retrieving Americans abroad to bring them back stateside for medical treatment. Last year, as international travel ebbed during the pandemic, business dipped to about 270 flights, Wayt said.
“We’re gearing up for the anticipated growth of international travel once COVID starts to finally calm down a little bit,” he said. “We just want to be prepared, because all of our numbers and research show there’s going to be a lot of people traveling once it’s safe to.”
Jet ICU’s hangar is one of several new airport projects coming in 2021. While the coronavirus pandemic delayed more than $900 million in planned improvements, other work is forging ahead.
At Thursday’s board meeting, the Aviation Authority approved a $34.4 million contract with DPR Construction to build out space inside the airport’s new SkyCenter office tower. The Aviation Authority will move half its administrative staff to three floors of the new building to make way for an expanded curbside area at the main terminal.
SkyCenter construction has continued during the pandemic, with some elements, including an atrium and pedestrian bridge, scheduled for completion this spring. The Aviation Authority’s office space will open by April 2022.
“This is going to move at a really fast pace,” said Jeff Siddle, the airport’s vice president of planning and design. “We’ll actually begin the first wave of moving into this facility in late February, early March. The contractors are ready to go to work, and within the next few weeks, there’ll be a lot of activity.”