Frank Ioppolo sees the Orlando Sanford International Airport as "an economic development engine with a runway."
The only thing missing says Ioppolo, chairman of the Sanford Airport Authority, is a flight plan.
The Sanford Airport Authority controls nearly 500 acres of developable property, including a two-mile stretch on S.R. 46 that The Florida Department of Transportation is currently widening to four lanes.
"The airport authority has beachfront property when it comes to commercial real estate along 46," Ioppolo told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday. "Our challenge is how do we best develop that property. Do we take the first thing that comes along and develop the property in a hodge-podge manner? Or do we put together a strategic plan and recruit developers for that property?"
To that end, Ioppolo and the airport authority have authorized a request for qualifications (RFQ) to seek commercial real estate and land development services. The RFQ was posted Sept. 9 and submittals are due by Oct. 7. There is a mandatory pre-submittal meeting scheduled for 2 PM on Sept. 23.
The authority is looking for real estate firms with experience in creating a development strategic plan, financing, urban planning and portfolio management.
Firms will also need experience in public-private partnerships, because all development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration. In addition to height restrictions, FAA regulations prevent the airport from selling land, so all development will require ground leases with the airport authority.
Ioppolo said seeking assistance from outside real estate consultants is "a natural evolution of the airport's growth."
"The airport is the fastest growing airport two years in a row," said Ioppolo, referencing a 2015 award from anna.aero, which named SFB the fastest growing airport in the U.S. with 2 million-5 million passengers. "We have to have a plan for how we're going to develop."
That plan is expected to include multiple strategies, based on where the land is located. For example, as GrowthSpotter reported in June, the commerce park on the west side of the airport terminal is attracting light manufacturing firms like Hill Dermaceuticals that seek traditional industrial space.
South of the terminal, Allegiant Air is building a $23 million-training center on private property that will include five full-motion simulators, this site first reported in late May. There might be opportunities to recruit other pilot-oriented businesses to airport land adjacent to that project.
Southeast of the terminal, Seminole County built a $27 million sports complex. Airport-controlled land in that area would be suitable for hotels, restaurants and ancillary sport businesses.
And the north side of the airport that fronts S.R. 46 could be developed as traditional office or retail space. Some 22,000 vehicles per day currently use that section of road.
A good strategic plan, Ioppolo noted, could also identify opportunities for the airport to partner with private land owners for future development.
"Right now we're reacting to what is happening around us," said Ioppolo. "We have a sports complex right next to the airport that will bring tens of thousands of people each year, yet there's not a hotel within two miles."
He said 6,000 people work at or near the airport. Yet the only restaurant options are in the airport terminal.
"We are not maximizing our revenue potential when it comes to our real estate assets," said Ioppolo. "As a public board, we would be worse than incompetent if we did not seek outside counsel to assist us."