MidAmerica hires consultant to lure business to airport

News-DemocratApril 18, 2013 

MidAmerica Airport

Boost revenue by piggybacking pharmaceutical drugs onto produce shipments to China -- that's the goal of a newly hired consulting firm for MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah.

St. Clair County and North Bay Produce, a company operating at the airport, will evenly split the cost of a $60,000, six-month contract to hire Furth and Associates in Greenwich, Conn., to meet that goal. The county's Public Building Commission, which oversees the airport, approved the contract during a meeting Thursday.

North Bay President Mark Girardin said his company has made two shipments of produce from MidAmerica to China, and has plans for three more shipments to reach customers of a 500-store food chain in China.

Girardin said he was "very pleased" with how his company is growing business in China and North Bay aims to expand its Chinese, and possibly Indian, market.

Should other businesses, such as pharmaceutical companies, begin shipping freight to China, North Bay could share airplane space and boost profits for the companies and MidAmerica, Girardin said.

"Not everybody has the ability to fill up a 747 in one day," Girardin said. "So you do little things like this to work together with somebody else to fill planes more frequently."

Airport and county officials have been working to capitalize on a partnership with Ningbo Lishe International Airport in China. The county aims to develop MidAmerica as a cargo hub for companies in the Midwest and Latin America shipping freight to 250 million Chinese customers.

The consulting group is "extremely adept at pharmaceutical transportation needs and goods," MidAmerica Airport Director Tim Cantwell said.

Furth and Associates believes pharmaceutical companies would ship freight through MidAmerica because of its security and value, according to county officials. Pharmaceutical drugs, as opposed to some perishable products, can be shipped year-round and are more profitable due to their cost compared to weight to ship.

The success of the consulting contract would be measured by aircraft on the ground at MidAmerica by Oct. 18, according to county documents.

The drugs would be stored in North Bay's 36,000-square-foot, refrigerated warehouse, which is currently being expanded. Foul weather has dampened the 18,000-square-foot expansion of the warehouse but it is still hoped that work would be completed before September, Girardin said.

In February, the county hired Sixel Consulting Group, based in Eugene, Ore., to further MidAmerica's goal of expanding passenger service at the airport.

That group was hired for $15,000 to complete a market study to help convince Allegiant Air and other airlines of an additional need for passenger service from the airport. Allegiant Air currently flies nonstop, round-trip flights to Orlando Sanford International Airport, located near Orlando, Fla.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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