Saturday, December 05, 2015

Terre Haute International Airport (KHUF) considering name change to boost business

Flight instructor Ethan Malivolti and student Lexus Bildland perform preflight checks and maintenance before a session Tuesday afternoon at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

Terre Haute airport officials are hoping to “power up” business at Hulman Field through a rebranding effort that will include a name change.

“We want to rebrand the airport to coincide with an updated strategic plan in trying to develop more business at the airport and openness for general aviation,” said Abby Desboro, director of marketing and public relations at the airport.

A new airport name would not changed the Federal Aviation Administration’s flight designation of HUF or Hulman Airfield, Desboro said.

Four new names — Terre Haute Regional Airport; Terre Haute Regional Airport and AeroTech Park; Indy West Regional Airport; and Wabash Valley Aeroplex — are being considered. Noticeably gone from these options is the “international” part of the present moniker.

For about a month, the airport has been using digital surveys seeking input on a possible airport name change. Telephone surveys have also been conducted with city, county and economic development officials as well as some businesses. An online survey through SurveyMonkey now appears on the airport’s Facebook page.

The survey asks 23 questions about the airport naming options, with the 23rd question asking for the survey taker’s name, email and phone number, for that person to be eligible to win a $100 Visa gift card.

While the airport houses several businesses, Desboro said officials hope to attract more business and jobs. Businesses already located at the airport include Turbines Inc.; IU Health Lifeline; Stark Industries; Indiana State University Flight Academy; ICTT System Sciences; Tri Aerospace LLC; and S&T Fulfillment.

In addition, the airport’s buildings are currently filled.

“We are all rented. Hoosier Aviation has the former Hulman hangar filled with planes, all the T-hangers are full, and others are full. We are doing good for rental,” Desboro said.

The name change, she said, would allow for a clearer marketing plan.

“When people see the word ‘international’ in the [airport’s] name, the first question is why, then where do planes land from,” Desboro said.

The airport was originally named Hulman Field, after Anton Hulman Jr., a Terre Haute businessman and owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He donated about 638 acres to the city of Terre Haute for an airport in 1943. In 1976, the city and Vigo County jointly formed an authority to manage the airport.

The airport’s named was changed in 1981 to Hulman Regional Airport, and another change in 1998 gave it its current designation.

Additionally in 1998, airport officials applied for a foreign trade zone (FTZ) status, which was approved by the U.S. customs service in 1999. The international status was sought in an effort to attract new air cargo companies to the airport.

The airport had a history of air cargo operations, such as Evergreen Express from 1987 to 1989; Roadway Global Air from 1993 to 1995; Daylight Air from 1996 to 1997; and American International Freight from 1997 to 1999. 

However, the air cargo industry had faded by 2000, and the “international” portion of the airport’s name seemed to lose its meaning.

The airport’s FTZ status was lost in 2006 because the zone was never activated. In 2008, the airport became part of INzone, which is the FTZ at the Indianapolis International Airport. That current designation allows for pre-arranged international flights to land in Terre Haute, with a U.S. customs agent coming from Indianapolis. However, such flights are rare.

Some local officials agree that an airport name change is in order.

“I understand them moving away from the international designation, and we need to be reflective of what we are doing today,” said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, who participated in a telephone survey from the airport about a month ago.

“I like to have the Terre Haute name in it because that is what we are and that is the designation that is really critical to all of us,” the mayor said. “We know that Terre Haute is part of Vigo County, but people know more about Terre Haute than Vigo County or even the Wabash Valley, so I think we need to stay focused on Terre Haute.”

Vigo County Commissioner Brad Anderson, who is the board of commissioner’s representative for the airport, said Tuesday he had not been contacted about the survey and did not yet have an opinion. Anderson said he did receive telephone calls from the airport, but that he had been ill during the past week and had not returned phone messages.

“A name change is probably in order,” said Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., who said he, too, had participated in an airport phone survey.

“We have a tremendous jewel in our airport, and I think [Executive Director] Jeff Hauser and the airport staff are working hard to rebrand the facility to make it more attractive for business opportunities,” Witt said. 

“From my perspective, the airport business is very competitive, everything from users of the facility to simply selling fuel, so anything that the airport can do to bring more traffic would be great for the airport and the community, as a whole. We consider the airport to be an economic development partner.”

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