Dan Gallagher’s last day as director of the Colorado Springs Airport is Wednesday. He takes over Tuesday as director of aviation business and finance with the Massachusetts Port Authority, based at Boston Logan International Airport with responsibility for budget, air service and business development for Logan and two nearby airports.
The city has hired ADK Consulting & Executive Search, a Florida-based company that focuses exclusively on aviation and recruited Gallagher for the Massachusetts job, to find his replacement. ADK officials are scheduled to meet Monday with Mayor John Suthers and Troy Stover, who becomes interim airport director on Thursday.
Stover said he wants to make the transition to be “a seamless process for our stakeholders. Dan has done a great job in preparing the staff to continue” after he leaves.
Gallagher joined the airport in 2010 as assistant director responsible for planning and development and was promoted to interim director in an airport shakeup in the wake of Frontier Airlines’ 2013 withdrawal from Colorado Springs. After a year as interim director, he got the permanent job and helped lead a turnaround that brought Frontier back to the Springs in April and attract new users to the airport’s general aviation area, including Sierra Completions, a Nevada company that plans to eventually employ 2,100 to convert large passenger jets into flying offices for CEOs and heads of state.
He was recently interviewed about his work at the airport.
Question: You took over as director at the airport’s lowest point in more than 20 years and have helped start a recovery; what remains to be done?
Answer: It was a challenging time, but you can’t keep a good community or airport down. There was a lot more opportunity than challenge before us. We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the potential here. I’m talking about both job creation and air service. You will see more sustained growth in air service; the airport will retain the service it has and grow incrementally. You will see significant leaps in job creation. There are markets that haven’t been tapped into, and through our economic package and governance that is more streamlined, you will see results. We offer speed to market. A lot of other cities offer cash. We offer rebates instead because we don’t have the cash. We didn’t have the most efficient process to execute an agreement with the airport. Now we are a lot further along on that.
Question: Sierra Completions announced its plans 1½ years ago; when do you expect to see the company break ground on its campus at the airport?
Answer: We have been working with them through the final hurdles and there will be an update in the very near future. Infrastructure is such an enormous part of this project, it has to be planned properly. A user of that size was never planned for the area where they will be building, so a lot of work has gone into making sure the infrastructure and all other elements are planned properly.
Question: Do you have any regrets about leaving this job?
Answer: I feel disappointed that I am leaving when we have so much opportunity in front of us. I am leaving a great staff, community and friends. I am a big believer in continuous improvement and want the airport to continue on that path. Air service looks stronger but there is so much more opportunity to leverage the airport as an asset to create high-paying jobs.
Question: What qualities would you recommend the mayor look for in a new director?
Answer: The airport doesn’t need a builder. You need someone who will get the most out of what is already there rather than building more. There is still a lot of (unused) capacity at this airport, so you need someone who will right-size the operation and get the most out of what you have. We have a whole lot and it is being underutilized.
Question: What was your focus in turning around the airport?
Answer: We had to find a way to stop airlines and others from leaving during a period of consolidation. We did that by focusing on the profitability of our airline partners and not on what we wanted from them. If they are profitable here, then there will here and good things will happen. If you are worried about having the best front door, you will have a vacant living room behind it.
Question: What did you learn in this job?
Answer: This job helped me understand not everyone is going to agree with you the first time. I was dealing with people outside the aviation industry for the first time in my career, so I had to become a better speaker and communicator.
Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234