The latest addition to the Rowan County Airport is the product of a changed business climate.
Steve Setzer says he tried to move his company to Rowan several years ago, but received an “exceptionally poor” reception to the idea from local officials.
He tried again in December 2014. County leaders showed off its newest hangar and offered to build Setzer office space. One year after he tried a second time, Setzer spent the morning hours of New Year’s Eve moving his planes to the Rowan County Airport.
Setzer is the president of Strategic Moves, which manages aircraft and charters private flights. Before starting his company, Setzer was a pilot in the Marines. He flew for a private company for a period after leaving the Marines. In 2002, Setzer’s employer became his first client.
Now, Strategic moves manages 12 airplanes and has 20 clients. The company is the newest and largest business addition to the airport with an estimated 15 to 17 jobs. Rowan County Commissioners first announced the move in April.
Construction is currently underway on 4,200 square feet of office space for Strategic Moves, which will occupy the largest capacity hangar at the Rowan County Airport. Once complete, it will be the company’s headquarters. Prior to the move, Strategic Moves was based in Statesville.
Setzer said he didn’t have any notable negative experiences at the Statesville airport. Instead, Setzer said he didn’t receive much attention at all. He was, however, the largest single consumer of fuel at the Statesville airport.
After being offered an office and shown a new hangar, Setzer said the move was a “no brainer.”
“The more we’ve gotten into it, the more pleased we’ve become,” he said. “It’s really a first class facility.”
When Strategic Moves brought its planes to the Rowan County Airport on Thursday, a number of county commissioners and business leaders greeted Setzer and the company’s employees.
While talking with Setzer during the informal gathering, Rowan Works Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons stressed the importance of the airport as a tool for growth.
“It’s not an airport, it’s a jobs port and its one of the best economic development tools we have,” Van Geons said.
County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said Strategic Moves expands the tax base in Rowan County without putting a significant strain on infrastructure such as schools. One plane could be worth a few million dollars or more.
The addition of Strategic Moves won’t immediately result in job growth, Setzer said. Employees working in Statesville will come as part of the move. He said Strategic Moves could begin looking to add additional employees in the future.
Once operational at the Rowan County Airport, Setzer says his company will offer private flights to business or groups who may not own an aircraft. Technically, it means the Rowan County Airport has passenger air service.
He said flying private is more attractive than commercial air travel. During business trips, a person might drive to Charlotte or Greensboro, fly to another busy airport, rent a car and drive to a final destination, Setzer said. That trip would probably require a hotel room, he said.
By flying private, Setzer said his company could fly from the Rowan County Airport to another small airport close to the end destination and have a car waiting. With the private trip, he said a passenger could be back home before the end of the day.
Setzer said his company specializes in owner-flown aircraft, but has clients who aren’t pilots. Strategic Moves has pilots on staff.