WARREN COUNTY — If you build it they will come — that is the mantra that has come true at the Warren County Airport, which is now home to six new businesses and 35 more planes, since a $2.3 million expansion.
Bob Henderson, co-owner and operator of the airport — it sits on county-owned land — said there are five new buildings on the 120-acre site off Greentree Road and six new businesses have moved in during the past eight months to a year. Henderson and the county capitalized on the closing of the Blue Ash airport about one year ago.
The county has also torn down houses, acquired easements and lowered power lines so the runway was effectively extended 1,000 feet, allowing bigger and faster planes to land at the airport. Henderson said with all the new developments, such as the outlet mall and Miami Valley Gaming racino, coming online he expects the already busy airport to bustle with activity.
“That’s going to help us a lot,” he said. “We don’t know that number for sure yet, but I’m sure there’s a lot of wealthy people who will have horses running in races and they want to come watch their horses run, this would be the likely place to go.”
Lone Mountain Aircraft Sales, an aircraft broker, moved into a renovated hanger at the airport nine months ago. Kevin Gregor, the controller for the business, said they buy and sell airplanes out of the location, which is strategically positioned between Cincinnati and Dayton. Sales tax on the planes that can cost up to $800,000 — depending on where the buyers and sellers are — goes into the county coffers. The company also just opened a plane maintenance facility where they have fixed 20 planes in two months.
“Warren County, the state of Ohio, everybody profits from this business being here,” he said.
The airport is also now home to Executive Aviation, the Flying Neurons flying club, Blue Ash Aircraft service, Middletown Flight School among others. Hot air balloons and Miami Valley Careflight also call the airport home. There used to be a skydiving operation at the site also but John Hart moved his operation to Hook Field in Middletown.
“We have air care here and it was a real problem for helicopters to take off on a 911 call and you’ve got 15 people falling out of the sky,” Henderson said.
Henderson said Middletown’s airport is a direct competitor for him, but right now the main operation is just the sky diving. Warren County’s port authority has had talks with Middletown city officials about expanding their airport. County Administrator Dave Gully, who also serves as treasurer of the port board, said he doesn’t see a problem with helping the county’s “competitor” because they really serve separate markets.
“Something that is good for Middletown is also good for Warren County. They are not mutually exclusive. If Middletown does better, it benefits Warren County,” Gully said. “They may compete at some level, but regionally if they both do well we’re all better off for it.”
Matt Eisenbraun, Middletown’s economic development program manager, said in addition to sky diving, they have a flight school for planes and helicopters, a plane maintenance facility, aircraft sales and a jet charter freight company at the airport. He said the city has about 150 acres ready for immediate development and up to 300 acres total that could potentially be developed.
He said there is room in the region for both airports to survive and thrive.
“I think there is plenty of room in the industry, depending what you’re looking for, there is everything from general aviation, private individuals that own aircraft, all the way from the small aviation companies on to larger aerospace companies…,” he said. “One of our focus areas is more than the general aviation, we’d like to tie into the aviation aerospace industry there is a whole lot of room there.”
Before the city embarks on the larger expansion, the city and the port authorities in Butler and Warren counties are in talks over how to help some existing business owners who are looking to expand at the airport.