HENDRY COUNTY — Airglades International Airport LLC’s Chief Executive Officer Fred Ford has been busy building momentum behind the private takeover of the former Riddle Field. Now he and his investor groups are putting the last touches on all the myriad details of their 10-year project to convert the public airport into a privately developed and owned (future) air cargo hub. Those details must be — and are on track to be — finalized by Sept. 30 to the FAA and FDOT. That is the “deadline to meet terms for the 2018 privatization reauthorization.”
The Airglades airport conversion is a promise that a large group of people has been joining in on through the decade since 2010 when Mr. Ford first brought the idea forward. Now there is near-unanimous backing from all around Lake Okeechobee and across South Florida. The Federal Aviation Administration and Florida Department of Transportation are expected to sign off by the end of February 2020 to enable construction to begin as planned in March, he said Tuesday.
The AIA project begun under the U.S. Airport Investment Partnership Program is in the final public comment period, ending in about two weeks.
On Monday night, Sept. 9, the Clewiston City Commission unanimously approved of a resolution urging the final OK. The Glades County Board of Commissioners followed the next morning, during their regular meeting Tuesday, after Mr. Ford appeared before commissioners to give a presentation about his timeline and the expected ripple effects across the economies of all the cities and counties in the region.
Glades County Board Chairman Tim Stanley said after the meeting that he was encouraged, impressed and eager to see the accompanying development.
“The presentation was very important, and it was very promising. They should have something by March, and for the whole area it’s going to be a great influx of jobs and business, so that’s the reason we’re backing it.
“They intend to support the small businesses that are already in the communities, too,” he added. He was referring to the final federal and state approval that’s expected then.
This is the resolution as passed by the Clewiston City Commission on Monday night, which has been joined by many local municipalities and county governments:
“WHEREAS, the South Florida region is a global logistics hub through which more than 83 percent of all commodities imported to the United States from the Americas by air is received and more than 79 percent of all commodities exported from the United States to the Americas leaves; and
“WHEREAS, the growth of trade presents an opportunity for Hendry County and nearby communities to serve as a global logistics hub for Florida and the U.S. with the establishment of an international airport; and
“WHEREAS, the Airglades Airport is a county-owned, public-use airport with interest from private investment and opportunity for expansion in Hendry County; and
“WHEREAS, the planned expansion of the Airglades Airport includes 600,000 square feet of refrigerated space to receive, process and distribute perishable cargo imported to the U.S. or exported to the Americas; and
“WHEREAS, the expansion of the Airglades Airport is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs during the construction phase; and
“WHEREAS, the establishment of the Airglades International Airport will create 1,700 long-term, good-paying jobs for the people of Hendry County, the City of Clewiston and neighboring communities; and
“WHEREAS, the economic opportunity that comes with the Airglades International Airport will not only create jobs for Florida families, but will also diversify the local economy and protect the region from the devastating impacts of a future economic downturn; and
“WHEREAS, the Airglades International Airport is estimated to generate millions in ad valorem revenues per year, which will be invested in the essential services provided to this community.
“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the City Commission of the City of Clewiston, Florida, as follows:
“SECTION 1. The City Commission of the City of Clewiston, Florida, hereby fully supports the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the Airglades International Airport Investment Partnership Program.
“Passed and adopted in open session this 9th day of September 2019.”