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Up Close with Greg Donovan

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Melbourne International Airport Executive Director

Greg Donovan is a fresh face in the Brevard County community, but his roots in Central Florida go deeper than one may think. A graduate of Florida Institute of Technology, a licensed pilot as a teenager, and with over 23 years’ experience as a leader in the aviation industry, Donovan knows what it takes to maximize on the potential MLB has in Brevard and the wider Central Florida community. It is a critical and strategic time for positioning MLB as a competitive location for travel and continuing to grow as a location for aerospace giants like Harris Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins and Embraer. Donovan is shaping the vision for where MLB will be years from today and how it will get there.

 

A SUCCESSFUL SYNERGY

Melbourne International Airport is a 24/7/365 operation that requires the highest levels of safety and security – priorities that get unwavering focus on a daily basis. Since the airport is a self-sustaining enterprise, time is also dedicated to making business and financial decisions, developing leases and cultivating business agreements. Setting aside time each day to build a collaborative spirit based upon strategic thinking is necessary for consistent wins. It is the synergy of the Airport Authority and our enthusiastic, hard-working employees that makes coming to work so rewarding. Together, we are tackling projects that may take years to realize, but at the end of the day, we know we were part of something that will provide benefit for generations to come.

Unlike many government or utility operations, competition is fierce within the aviation industry. We are directly competing against at least 429 commercial airports in the U.S. alone that are vying for the same airlines. My job is to ensure that our airport costs are competitive and that various business models will thrive at MLB. In the shadow of a large facility such as Orlando and with continued airline consolidation, air service development is not easy. Like a business, we must advertise and market our products in order to win.

 

STRATEGIC VISIONING

To visitors, our terminal building is the front door to the Space Coast. It must be both welcoming and efficient in its operations. We must transform our terminal and update many elements that have been in place since 1989. Even our Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) is nearly 50 years old, requiring a total replacement to stay current with operational needs. On a broader scale, we are initiating our Airport Master Plan process. It is essential that we get participation and input from the community and all user groups.

Back in 2012, Brevard County’s unemployment rate was at 12 percent. Today it is just above 6 percent. Many of those job replacements came as a result of a visionary Airport Authority in partnership with our other community leaders, working to attract businesses that would benefit from our highly skilled workforce. Today we are working just as hard to bring new air service to our community.

We have the advantage of being an airport authority with a board that is strictly focused on airport matters. We are able to be responsive and nimble to the extent that world aviation leaders such as Embraer and Northrop Grumman are comfortable making long-term commitments and growing more rapidly than anticipated. As a result, we have landed thousands of jobs that other communities worked just as hard to attract. And we’re just getting started.

 

A NEW MESSAGE

MLB has some unique advantages and potentials that have not been aggressively marketed in the past.  We are working hard to make sure that businesses, particularly airlines, fully understand all of the opportunities at MLB. We are one step away from bringing large groups of passengers to the Space Coast from places like Canada, Europe and South America. All are now within reach and we have the facilities to accommodate them. Airlines are fast realizing that the cost to conduct business at MLB is dramatically less than our counterparts (among lowest in the state).

The airport’s entire $28 million annual budget is supported by airport-generated revenue. We provide over $1.2 billion in positive economic impacts every year to our community and are responsible for employing over 7,000 people. This is accomplished without any ad valorem or general sales tax revenues. A graduate student from FIT has agreed to focus his thesis to update our economic impact numbers. We believe that with updated data input, those numbers will soar.

A recent report from the FAA confirms that ticket prices from MLB rival that of MCO/Orlando.  It appears that locals have gotten out of the habit to check MLB fares first. We need to change that. We’re embarking on a new campaign to “Fly MLB: Where Flying is Fun.” It’s not fun to make the drive to Orlando, pay tolls and higher parking fees as well as to endure longer security lines, and you don’t get that good feeling of helping your hometown airport to succeed.

 

 


This article appears in the March 2015 issue of i4 Business.
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