Just as Niceville residents know an F-35’s roar is the sound of freedom, Northwest Crestview residents know an aircraft’s buzz comes from a local economic engine.
Bob Sikes Airport generates more than $174 million in payrolls and spending, a state aviation impact study reported.
Defense contractor L3 Crestview Aerospace has called the airport home since its earliest days as Fairchild-Hiller, when Vietnam War jets used its landing strip, and Lockheed-Martin moved into BAE’s former hangar to retrofit.
Thirty-plus-year tenant Sunshine Aero Flight Test, using its own air fleet, flies military payloads for testing, calibration and evaluation.
Sunshine Aero is part of Dr. Paul Hsu’s Crestview Technology Air Park, which the engineer plans to expand to include technology industries and an educational component. Educators from Northwest Florida State College and the university of West Florida plan an April C-TAP tour.
On the runway’s opposite end, Tepper Aviation, next door to Crestview Aerospace, performs similar functions as Sunshine, flight-testing aircraft for defense contractors.
Midway along the runway, while companies like Lockheed-Martin and Crestview Aerospace build better planes, Qwest Air Parts disassembles aircraft and sells the parts.
Lockheed’s conversion of C-130 aircraft into gunships for special operations is a 24-hour-a-day project, Okaloosa Airports Deputy Director Mike Stenson said. The program has employed more than 200 workers and, “a couple months ago, these jobs were non-existent,” Okaloosa County Airports Director Tracy Stage said.
Not all of Bob Sikes Airport’s business is up in the air. Bay State Cable Ties used state and county business development incentives and relocated there from Massachusetts.
Next door, long-time tenant Asurion employs hundreds of workers in a consumer warranty call center.
Off John Givens Road is the Okaloosa County Industrial Air Park, where Custom Production manufactures metal components for diverse industries, including high-end bicycles and garden furniture.
Pre-approved hangar and industrial sites along Bob Sikes’ taxiway generate interest in businesses seeking to relocate, Stage said.
“We’re trying to attract businesses that want access to the airfield, and to support businesses in the air park that want to support airfield businesses,” he said.
One of the biggest attractions, Stage said, is “we don’t have a problem at Bob Sikes with encroachment.”
“Performing major modification and testing of aircraft is not an issue,” Stage said. “The airport and its boundaries have been protected to make a strong engine for economic growth.”
BOB SIKES AIRPORT ECONOMIC IMPACT
Source: Florida Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study, August 2014