The Balanced Development Approach: How to Effectively Prepare Your Airport for New Business Opportunities (Part 1)

Written by Jenny Watts, C.M.

“If you build it, he will come.”

Field of Dreams (1989)


This is, of course, the infamous prophetic quotation from the beloved baseball-themed movie of the 1980s, in which the story’s “field of dreams” eventually becomes a reality in more ways than one. This phrase often describes a vision to create or build something that may not be fully grounded in reality, but is attainable to those who believe in it.

In the realm of public airport development, many airport sponsors have visionary goals for their own “airfield of dreams” but are often stifled by challenges in the airport development process. More and more airports today, including general aviation (GA) airports, are reinventing themselves to be run like a business that happens to have aircraft taking off and landing. The growing demands of airport users—coupled with the needs of businesses and industries that recognize an airport’s economic potential—are driving the need for airport sponsors to grow and diversify their airfields with both aeronautical and non-aeronautical development. Airports have become a hot spot for various kinds of development, such as upscale retail and dining, hotels, and rental car centers, with the potential for both the airport and other invested parties to profit considerably. These are the airports with the aspiration to take their airport to the next level and become self-sustaining.

The Balanced Development Approach

So how does one take their airport to the next level? How does an airport sponsor balance the “if you build it, they will come” mentality with the current complex processes that drive development at airports?

In this series, we will explore the concept of a balanced development approach to create new business opportunities at airports. Drawing from Dibble’s experience as a planning, design, and construction consulting firm working at airports across the Southwest, we have found this balanced development approach to center around four key areas of understanding:

1. Planning
2. Promotion
3. Funding
4. Timing

Together, these four considerations prepare an airport sponsor to take on the task of transforming their vision into reality—their “airfield of dreams.”

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Jenny Watts