Guest Column: Airport's needs not being met by current management

"Kingman has a diverse economy with a strong industrial base and large industrial park."

This is a quote from Kingman Councilwoman Jen Miles, printed in the Miner July 23. The statement is very true. The future economic well-being of Kingman is attracting new companies to the only industrial park owned by our city. Equally important to our economy is seeing the needs of those companies already at the Kingman Airport Industrial Park met in hopes of future expansion.

Are those needs being met? What is the state of Kingman's Airport Industrial Park? Drive around the park. You'll find an area looking depressed and unkempt. You'll find an area where there should be a frenzy of activity - semi-trucks full of raw materials coming in and finished products pulling out, train cars utilizing the valuable spurs, workers and businesspeople coming and going from the buildings.

Instead, you'll find many empty structures - and even those occupied host a few cars scattered in almost-empty parking lots. Those important rail spurs sit idle. You'll find "For Sale" and "For Rent" signs in the windows of vacant buildings. You'll find streets unpaved. You'll find a lazy, slow-moving atmosphere.

There hasn't been a new company of any size taking up residence there for years. We lost Southwire - no replacement company, just a large empty building. We lost Guardian - no replacement, just a large empty building.

Even the entrance marquee lacking any architectural design is void of the many company names once listed. The marquee greets visitors to the park with the appearance of an industrial park losing instead of gaining companies. No company will invest in a new plant in an area in decline.

Instead of a growing industrial park, we are now left with a decaying, poorly managed eyesore. The city-owned industrial park is so poorly managed that the city should take over its management.

Our City Council heard a presentation at a recent council meeting by Bob Riley, economic development director of the Kingman Airport Authority. We learned very little from that presentation. Instead of detailing the jobs added since the city council hired the KAA, Mr. Riley gave a history lesson on how the city acquired the airport and industrial park. We learned little of future plans to acquire commercial air service now that Great Lakes Airline is leaving. We learned little of the effort (if any) to bring companies into the park or expansion plans by present park tenants.

Council, please do your homework. Visit the companies at the park. Ask how they are being served. Ask what needs to be improved at the park to expand their local operations. Ask if they would invite their corporate friends to open a plant at the Kingman Airport Industrial Park. Request and review all financial documents. Evaluate how best to get this area moved forward.

Our city council needs to ask some tough questions.

• How many jobs have been added since the city turned over their responsibility of managing the park to a private management company known as KAA, Inc.?

• What's the vacancy rate of the park?

• How much are we paying for each of the jobs added? Or if jobs have been lost, why are we keeping KAA, Inc.?

• Exactly what do the Airport Authority workers do all day?

• How many companies has Bob Riley contacted? Ask for the names of those companies.

Although many wish to be quiet about their relocation plans, council members should be advised. Council members, call these companies and urge them to consider Kingman - and while you're on the phone, ask them how often Bob Riley or anyone from the Airport Authority has contacted them. Council members, you represent us - pop in to the Airport Authority unannounced and visit for a day here and a day there. Sit in the parking lot of a nearby business or in the airport and watch the "flurry" of activity that takes place there. The city-owned airport and industrial area is an economic engine that is not being managed in a way to realize benefits for all the citizens of the area.