The City of Kissimmee is cutting ties with the first aviation company to open a fixed base operations center at its municipal airport.
City Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Orlando-based Sheltair Aviation on a $30 million plan to redevelop the 11-acre site that has been home to the Kissimmee Jet Center since 1981. The vote followed the recommendation of a city’s selection committee, which heard presentations by the top two companies that were bidding for the lease and redevelopment opportunity.
Kissimmee Aviation Services, which operates the jet center, is one of three FBOs at Kissimmee Gateway Airport (ISM). The company had proposed a two-phased redevelopment of its site to include a new 8,000 square foot FBO and 14,000 square feet of new hangar space in phase 1. The firm proposed investing $5.5 million over both phases. The project would include a new cafe within the FBO and would partner with its fuel supplier to offer sustainable alternative jet fuel.
“This will be a major positive PR moment for the City to demonstrate ISM’s embrace of efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of our industry,” President Antonio Romano wrote in his proposal.
Sheltair has been a tenant of Kissimmee Gateway Airport since 2001 and has developed over 115,000 square feet of hangars just east of, and adjacent to, the proposed site. Sheltair is the largest privately-owned FBO in Florida and offers those services at 18 of its 24 airports. Sheltair provided three redevelopment options for the site, two of which include maintaining an FBO service at the location.
Todd Anderson, Sheltair’s senior vice president of real estate and development, noted in the proposal that the airport doesn’t have enough flight activity to support three FBOs. “Sheltair will evaluate the airport market for a third FBO, however at the current levels of activity a third FBO could be self-defeating to the airport’s goal to maintain a healthy tenant business climate,” he wrote.
QuantumGroup, another bidder and current FBO at the airport, made an even stronger case to eliminate the fueling service at the the jet center. “Based on our personal experience with exactly this situation at other airports, we believe that the airport is currently well served with the two surviving FBOs, both of which provide first rate service at competitive prices. The time may come when three FBOs can be successful at KISM, but it is not soon in our opinion.”
Milo Zonka, Sheltair’s real estate development manager told City Commissioners that Sheltair would immediately initiate an intensive marketing effort, creating the business case and specifications for potential build-to-suit users for a range of facilities, from 30,000SF maintenance/repair/overhaul (MRO) operators, down to 5,000SF corporate jet hangars.
“We’re very intrigued and excited about the opportunity that this 11 acres represents. It’s a really premier location at the airport," Zonka said.
The ultimate development plan would depend on market response, but the most likely scenario would be for Sheltair to build about 100,000 square feet of new MRO-focused hangar and office space with a development cost exceeding $30 million.
The MRO-focused plan also would create more new jobs, according to the proposal. The firm would utilize its sister company, Holland Sheltair, as general contractor.
Tony Sherbert, a partner with Kissimmee Aviation, said Romano acquired the company in 2017 and secured funding to expand and redevelop the site after being assured the city would renew its long-term lease. He said the firm would shut down its operations and Romano would pull his existing airline clients from the airport, eliminating 30 jobs.
City Manager Mike Steigerwald offered to have Airport Manager Shaun Germolus explain why the selection committee preferred the Sheltair proposal, but Mayor Jose Alvarez said it wasn’t necessary. "I trust they did the work that they were supposed to do, and they chose a company," he said.