By Carol Cain
Senior Producer and Host
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters”
Oakland County International Airport is about to get a little greener and that’s fabulous news to L. Brooks Patterson.
The Waterford-based airport – the first in the nation to be certified by the federal government in 1929 – will open it’s new $5.7 million terminal with an invite-only ribbon cutting Tuesday that will showcase a living wall made of orchids, moss and ferns, three wind turbines, and geothermal technology that makes the 15,000 square foot terminal more efficient.
“We want people to be wowed when they walk in the door of this terminal,” said Patterson, county executive, who worked with J. David VanderVeen, his deputy and also director of the airport, in putting the project together.
Patterson appears with VanderVeen and others on “Michigan Matters” to give viewers a preview of the new terminal and talk about the economic impact of airports.
“When someone lands, and then walks through here, it’s going to make an impression. We want them to be wowed,” said Patterson. “We have every Fortune 500 company passing through here. We want people to know we mean business.”
The terminal features a glitzy glass front, a vintage bi-plane on loan from the Kalamazoo Air Zoo hanging from the ceiling, that living wall of greenery, and hopes of being the first airport in the state to win LEED certification.
And it also is welcoming to families who love planes as it features a fenced in sitting area with picnic tables where people can watch planes take off and land.
“I expect this will become a destination for schools to visit,” he said.
The airport will also hold an open house for the public on Sunday, Aug, 28 where thousands are expected.
Plane Sense Bill Cattley, a West Point graduate who flew in Desert Storm, now works as a division director of Cirrus Aircraft, a plane maker in Duluth, Minn. He’s convinced the new Oakland terminal will help his efforts to sell more planes in Michigan and other states.
“Like everyone, our sales fell after the 2008 meltdown,” said Cattley who also appeared on the show.
He is based in Metro Detroit and sells planes in several states.
Cattley says private plane sales are starting to pick up. And he sees a growing market in Michigan as firms look to expand across the state and also Midwest.
“For busy executives who travel within the state or in several states, having your own plane can be so much more efficient and actually save the company money,” he said.
And to prove flying isn’t difficult, Cattley took Paul Pytlowany , WWJ-TV CBS’s chief videographer, and myself up in the latest Cirrus SR22T while we visited the airport and showed us the ease of maneuvering the plane.
Pytlowany captured the flight on camera which is featured on the show.
Once we were airborne and at a reasonable altitude, Cattley even let me steer the plane for a few moments which proved exhilarating to someone who admits to being a nervous flier.
(I sensed Pytlowany, who sat in the back of the high tech four seater plane, may have been somewhat nervous knowing I was behind the levers … although the plane is one of the safest, as it comes equipped with a parchute that helps it glide safely to the ground should any problems occur.)
Back on the safe ground again, VanderVeen, who is also a pilot, continued the tour and explained when he and Patterson were thinking about the new terminal almost two years ago and what it should feature, they knew they wanted it to be more efficient.
VanderVeen said the three wind turbines and underground heater/cooler will improve efficiency which he hopes will help it gain gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
The airport , second largest in Michigan, is responsible for $175 million in economic impact, said VanderVeen.
There is little doubt airports are a catalyst for economic development elsewhere too.
Metro Airport in Romulus has been growing with its aerotropolis concept that bundles it with Willow Run and surrounding communities to grow more economic growth.
In the Motor City, a new company is raising its hand in hopes of being chosen to transform the Coleman A. Young International Airport (formerly Detroit City Airport).
It’s been 15 years since the facility had commercial flights.
Rowhendra LLC has put forth a bid before city council to change that by adding a carrier and visions of greater economic development around in an areas desperate for it.
On the other side of the state, the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan was formed by leaders trying to bring in more airline carriers and keep airline ticket prices in check.
The alliance is led by Dick DeVos, former GOP gubernatorial candidate and president of Windquest Group, and others from Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Traverse City.
They have had success in increasing passenger traffic through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and reducing average fares through addition of service from Air Tran Airways (soon to be Southwest) and Frontier Airways.
“Air service is a critical component to the economic vitality of a community or a region in today’s global economy,” said DeVos, also a pilot.
You can watch Emmy winning Michigan Matters 11 a.m. Sunday on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit
Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of “Michigan Matters.” You can read her columns on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-355-7126