A city actively pursuing economic development, as Lake Wales is doing through the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, is greatly helped in that pursuit when its assets include a municipal airport. The value of that asset for economic development is multiplied many times over when the airport is modern, attractive, up to date technologically, and, especially important, able to accommodate heavier aircraft and larger corporate jets on its runways and in its hangars.
What I just described is exactly the kind of airport Lake Wales will have once the estimated $7.8 million-plus capital improvement projects currently underway there are completed. We at the Lake Wales EDC are very excited about these projects, which will put our airport on par with those in Winter Haven and Bartow. We see the airport, with its eventual greater capacity for takeoffs, landings, and larger and faster aircraft, as being a real necessity — a big and useful tool in our marketing toolbox — as we work to showcase the community to potential business investors.
Shepherding the long-awaited capital improvement projects is Jared N. DeLong, the new Lake Wales Municipal Airport Manager. The West Palm Beach native started with the City on March 26, and he’s been a very busy man since then.
Jared came to Lake Wales from Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, where he served as an Airport Operations Specialist. He’s also worked for the Florida Department of Transportation as a Public Transportation Projects Manager in FDOT’s District 1 office in Bartow.
Jared a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force (2006-2014). He served seven years as a combat search and rescue enlisted aviator on HC-130 aircraft, and he served two years as a special operations combat controller. Since 2014, he’s served in the USAF Reserves as a combat search and rescue enlisted aviator on the HC-130s.
Jared has a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, with minors in Airport Management and Aviation Safety.
Recently, Jared and Lake Wales Assistant City Manager James Slaton were kind enough to share with the Lake Wales EDC a highly detailed update on the airport projects and the important economic development role it plays now and the expanded role it will play when construction is completed. I’m pleased to share some highlights from the update below.
- Lake Wales Municipal Airport falls within the Lake Wales city limits, in the southeast center of Polk County, two miles from the intersection of north-south U.S. Highway 27 and east-west State Road 60. The airport is located approximately 60 miles east of Tampa and 54 miles southwest of Orlando. The airport consists of 545 acres of land and has an airfield elevation 127 feet above mean sea level.
- Lake Wales Municipal Airport (X07) is a publicly owned, public-use, general aviation, and community airport. The airport is one of 11 publicly owned, public-use airports in Florida’s Central Region. It currently supports general aviation, light sport/ultralight aviation, recreational flying, and skydiving. Its 2014 FDOT economic impact was conservatively estimated at $1,058,000.
- The airport is served by two runways, east-west Runway 06/24 (3,999 feet by 100 feet) and north-south Runway 17/35 (3,859 feet by 75 feet). Runway 06/24 has a full-length parallel Taxiway Alpha. Runway 17/35 uses a short-access system of Taxiways Bravo and Charlie. Taxiway Alpha rehabilitation and Taxiway Bravo construction design plans were completed in April. The plan is to select the projects’ construction contractors and have a notice to proceed with construction in the fall.
- Since late September-early October 2017, Runway 6/24 and Taxiway Alpha have been undergoing extension from 3,999 feet to 5,400 feet. Runway 6/24 also is undergoing surface rehabilitation for the entire original length. The project is about 75 percent complete. New Runway 6/24 approach lighting systems and area perimeter fencing also will be installed. The tentative completion time is the end of July this year. Once completed, the runway’s aircraft gross weight-bearing capacity will increase from 15,000 pounds to 75,000 pounds. This, along with new corporate hangars, fuel systems upgrades, and fuel pricing, is expected to draw high demand from larger general-aviation (GA) aircraft and business/corporate/executive jet activity
- The airport currently has three corporate hangars and 16 T-hangars, all of which are under lease. The T-hangar waiting list is 25 potential customers deep. Four 60-foot-by-60-foot corporate hangars with utilities will be constructed on the northeast airport ramp by the coming fall. The city’s engineering consultant has submitted 90 percent-completed design plans to the construction contractor. Currently, half a dozen prospective tenants are on a waiting list to lease these corporate hangars.
- This calendar year, both of the airport’s existing fuel farm systems will be updated by state-of-the-art and faster-flowing fuel pumps to accommodate an anticipated influx of larger aircraft after the Runway 6/24 extension and rehab is completed. The airport also has an option with its fuel supply vendor to obtain a fuel truck to provide personalized and on-demand fuel service for GA and jet customers as demand dictates. Even with the main Runway 6/24 closed for construction, the airport has competitively priced its fuel to be the best regionally. This has resulted in an increase in small jet traffic, along with the airport’s normal GA traffic.
- Lake Wales Municipal airport serves several roles — national, state, regional and local — and is currently classified as a non-primary, local/basic, and general aviation airport.
- National role: Lake Wales Municipal Airport is part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.
- State/regional/local role: The airport is part of the Florida Aviation System Plan and Continued Florida Aviation System Planning Process. Its regional/local role also includes corporate, executive, business, and tourism travel.
- Non-primary airports are mainly used by GA aircraft and include commercial service, relievers, and general aviation airports.
- Local airports are the backbone and a critical component of the nation’s general aviation system, providing communities with access to local, regional, intrastate, and interstate markets. Typically, local airports are located near larger population centers but not necessarily in metropolitan areas.
- A basic airport has a principal role as a community airport, providing a means for public/private general aviation flying and other aeronautical activities. A basic airport links the community with the regional/national airport system, and develops recreational, business, and corporate aviation contributions. Support activities include emergency management and disaster relief services, passenger charter services, air freight/cargo operations, flight training, and recreational flying.
- General Aviation encompasses a diverse range of commercial, governmental, and recreational uses. This does not include scheduled airline service and military activity. GA use categories include personal use (recreational); and non-personal use (flight instruction, corporate-executive-business travel, aerial observation, aerial application, helicopter use, sightseeing, air medical, air taxi/tours, etc.) Personal use accounted for approximately 31.5 percent (the largest category) of all GA activity surveyed in 2012 and 2014. Non-personal use accounted for approximately 68.5 percent (majority combined category) of all GA activity surveyed in 2012 and 2014.
Jared noted that the airport has a storied history of military aviation, general aviation, and other aviation activities, such as skydiving, ultralights, and paramotors.
“Since my arrival, I have been diligently networking with local/regional aviation industry partners and business/economic development groups to seize new airport business opportunities,” Jared wrote in his update. “As an ardent aviation professional, I’m excited for the promising future and economic impact the current and future airport capital improvement projects will have on the City of Lake Wales and the local/regional community.”
I and the Lake Wales EDC partners and team join Jared and other city officials in the excitement about the promising future of Lake Wales Municipal Airport for commerce, travel, pleasure, and, importantly, attracting and boosting economic development. We also welcome Jared to our community and look forward to seeing the fruits of his aviation-related labor.