During special meetings in June, the Ardmore City Commission and Ardmore Development Authority approved a lease with Sovereign Oklahoma Development LLC, which appears to be the last hurdle in developing the Ardmore Airpark into a logistics park.
Once the final signatures are affixed to documents and lawsuits are dropped, the question looming is simple: What’s next?
The answer appears to be extensive planning, which will allow the airpark to realize its potential.
“We are definitely glad to have this hurdle behind us,” Ardmore City Manager J.D. Spohn said. “We are very optimistic about the possibilities of future development at the airpark.
“I believe the city and the ADA will work very closely together. It’s in the best interests of the citizens that we work together. We still have some steps to take to finalize some issues. We will then be open for business and the ADA will begin recruiting businesses.”
Spohn said during the next 18 months, work will take place on a master plan and phasing plan.
ADA Interim President and CEO Brian Carter said the airpark is set to begin a new phase in its history, terming the new era Airpark 4.0.
“Airpark 1.0 was a military base from 1943 to 1965,” Carter said. “It was transferred to the city, and from 1965 to 1985, you had Airpark 2.0, which had some flight training and some small companies.”
In 1985, the ADA signed a long-term lease under the leadership of Wes Stucky. At that time, the airpark took major strides in development. Carter termed 1985 to 2015 Airpark 3.0, as the ADA, under city direction, developed the airpark, bringing in heavy industry, which employs 1,600 to 1,700. Aviation has also continued to be a significant industry at the airpark.
With the new lease with Sovereign, 2015 will mark the beginning of Airpark 4.0, as the industrial park transforms into a logistics park. Carter said three key investments have poised the airpark for the transformation:
• widening of the highway
• lengthening of the runway
• addition of a unit rail facility
“You have to do the hard things to get in the game,” Carter said. “The airpark today is postured to process the most robust versions of air, rail and truck cargo. If industry is about making goods and services, logistics is about to make Ardmore part of the global supply chain for commodities of all types.”
Carter said the planning would be crucial, as meetings began Wednesday to address infrastructure issues. Carter said 50 percent of the airpark has no infrastructure, and another 25 percent is outdated infrastructure. A survey on the infrastructure will last 30 days and set the foundation for a master plan.
As part of the master or business plan, decisions will need to be reached on what niche should be filled.
“We need to discuss which commodities, which transportation platforms and which facilities we need,” Carter said.
Carter also said diversity will be key. He also said Sovereign, the ADA and the city will be both strategic and operations partners. In addition to leasing real estate in the park, Sovereign owns 400 to 500 acres by the airpark.
“In total real estate, we are 30 percent bigger than just the airpark,” Carter said in discussing Sovereign’s role as a land owner in addition to its leasing of airpark property. “We want to move as soon as possible with our development partner as part of the conversation. We will work with Sovereign to bring in business, but major development takes time.”
As the planning phase develops, there are other steps that will be taken. As part of the agreement, there will be changes to the TIF 1 District. Spohn said attorneys will review the plan and make a presentation to the ADA and the city on what steps need to be taken next.
“There will be minor revisions for TIF 1 this summer,” Carter said. “Major revisions will be evaluated as part of the master plan.”
Carter also said plans are being drawn up for the customs office at the airpark. The drawings are expected to be completed by August and submitted to the FAA. Once approval is given, a construction project will begin which should last a year.
As plans begin to move forward, which will change the face of the airpark, Spohn said the success in reaching the agreement is attributed to a new era of cooperation, which will be beneficial moving forward.
“I appreciate the ADA board and city working together, which helped us reach this agreement,” he said. “There is a level of trust that has been established that might not have existed before.”