Chicago Rockford International Airport Seeks New Director
By Ellen Cannon
The Chicago Rockford International Airport has started its national search for a new executive director. This regional airport is critical to Illinois ‘sustained economic growth, the development of tourism, and cargo shipment.
This airport took a significant economic hit when Northwest Airlines left leaving the region leaving it without a carrier service. Former executive director Bob O’Brien, who served for nine years, was replaced by Franz Olson, a 35 year employee of the airport who acted as its interim executive director.
Currently, the dominant airline in Rockford is Allegiant Air. It arrived as a carrier to Rockford in 2005. It flies several times a week between Rockford, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando, and Tampa. Direct Air also flies passengers to Punta Gorda and West Palm Beach Florida. Apple Vacations flies between Rockford.
Regionally, the airport serves travelers from southern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa and Chicago’s suburbs. The Rockford airport is attractive to this region because parking is free and compared to Midway and O’Hare, it is experienced as relatively hassle free.
The recession has slowed passenger service both domestically and internationally.
In terms of air cargo service the primary carrier is UPS. Following years of brisk business the recession has hit this portion of airport business as well. According to the Rockford Register Star, “In recent years the airport went after international cargo airlines. In 2008, it partnered with a Chicago developer to build an airport cargo facility which unveiled as the economy sank into a deep recession. The building remains vacant. In the recent past, several 747’s loaded with cargo from China landed in Rockford .Freight was unloaded, put on trucks and sent to O’ Hare. Rockford airport officials hoped to make a splash in the industry by timing operations start to finish, proving freight could get to the same place in Chicago flying to Rockford instead of O’Hare faster and for thousands of dollars less.” These prospects as well as employment took a sharp hit with the current recession. (Brian Leaf, www.rrstar.com/businessrockford)
The search for a new executive director will focus on the goals of increasing the number of passengers, increasing job-producing cargo flow, the possible development of aircraft maintenance and repair operations at the airport. As of now, the airport authority’s search will include working with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s career services and alumni program, as well as possibly using a national search firm. (Sean F. Driscoll, www.rrstar.com)
News reports suggest that a possible candidate might be Mike Dunn former airport board Chairman who currently serves as the regional director of governmental affairs for Winnebago County.