Monday, February 20, 2012

Monroe airport getting a business plan

For the first time, the Monroe Regional Airport is in the process of developing an organized strategic business plan to maximize its growth potential.

The plan’s aim is to create a smooth transition from the airport terminal’s construction stage toward operational excellence, said interim airport manager Ron Phillips.

For years, strategic plans at the airport have addressed only infrastructure improvements, but the new plan Phillips has assembled focuses on four key areas to ensure that the airport is an efficient and effective transportation resource for the city and surrounding community, he said. Those focus areas are: keeping the airport cost-competitive, improving customer satisfaction, achieving operational excellence and encouraging employee engagement.

Phillips hopes the airport will eventually become one of the best if not the best airport in the southwest.

“This is something that we feel is important to do because it will help create a framework for us to achieve the goals we desire to achieve,” Phillips said. He added that this plan will help keep the airport focused on its business goals while the airport simultaneously tends to other improvement projects such as runway rehabilitation, fence realignment, or construction of a new fire station on airport grounds.

Mayor Jamie Mayo said the airport previously had individual business goals such as bringing American Airlines back to serve Monroe, creating a marketing manager position to help increase promotions, work with the airlines to keep costs down and maximize boardings.

However, because the airport will be double the size of the old terminal when all construction phases are complete, Mayo said it will be at “another level.”

“This will be the first strategic business plan. We’ve had a plan to do a number of different things that have carried over one administration to the other. We want to enhance that by having an organized strategic business plan,” he said.

Before the business plan was put together, Phillips and former airport planning consultant Nikhil Joshi studied the strategic plans of other successful airports, such as those in Mobile, Ala.; Dayton, Ohio; Birmingham; Atlanta; and New Orleans.

Combining components of those plans, Phillips said he put together this one, which he expects will take six months to fine-tune and implement. The plan seeks to help the airport identify, increase and diversify revenue streams and keep airline costs low so carriers will be more likely to expand service here, he said.

For the 2011-12 fiscal year the airport’s revenues are at $2.1 million, according to Director of Administration David Barnes. For the last 10 years, the city’s average revenues have been about $1.5 million, with primary revenue sources being rentals and leases for the lounge and restaurant, landing fees, jet way usage fees, advertising fees, and car rental facility charges. Historically, the advertising revenues have been low, Phillips noted.

Furthermore, he said there are still 1,100 square feet of office space ready to be leased, and another 1,500 square feet available for vending. Phillips is hoping to attract a retail store or high-quality news and gift shop vendor to the airport.

The business plan also seeks to help the city build customer loyalty and cultivate a culture of excellence at the airport by developing a workforce that supports the airport management’s vision — not because management told them to do so, but because they believe they are a part of the planning process, he said.

To that end, Phillips said he will meet with staff weekly and provide customer service training sessions and training in those areas identified for improvement.

He will also seek passenger feedback by way of customer surveys, comment drop boxes or comments submitted through the airport’s website, he said.

By striving for excellence in all areas of business, Phillips hopes the airport will earn a positive reputation among airlines and passengers.

As of now, Phillips said the Monroe airport is being marketed in Shreveport, Alexandria and Jackson, through radio spots and newspaper advertisements.

Mayo added that the Monroe airport has also been advertised in southern Arkansas and western Mississippi as well. Advertisements are intended to increase leisure travelers as well as business passengers, though currently, Phillips said business travelers are the airport’s “bread and butter.”

No comments:

Post a Comment