People are talking

Thanks to the benefits of some decent parenting at the hands of my mother, who is a teeny, tiny woman with exemplary manners, I am a reasonably humble man. You will not find me standing on a stump telling the world what an amazing individual I am. There are two reasons for that, really. First, I’m not that amazing. Second, the women in my life, of which there are many, would gang up in a heartbeat to point out a series of flaws I possess that are so deep and so catastrophically damaging I might never be able to leave the house again.

Perhaps I’m overstating the point. But you know what I mean.

The crux of all this build-up is that I do not typically make a point of drawing attention to myself. Not intentionally, anyway. I do however make it a point to step up and speak in glowing terms about the Polk Aviation Alliance, an organization that is unique, growing, and finding real success.

Those are not attributes that fit many aviation-oriented organizations these days, so I feel somewhat justified in my praise of the Alliance, even if I am clearly biased in its favor.

The “Polk” in Polk Aviation Alliance refers to Polk County, Florida. This area of land, which is located in the geographic center of the state, is large. It covers more than 2,000 square miles, making this county significantly larger than the state of Rhode Island. Heck, if we annexed in a couple farms from the surrounding counties, Polk would be as big as Delaware.

Admittedly, Rhode Island and Delaware are small states. The point remains, however. This is one whopper of a big county.

Included in Polk County are 17 municipalities and a county government that oversees the whole shebang. And while that may not seem pertinent information in a publication that is dedicated to aviation, it is.

Here’s why: It is the Alliance’s intent to brand Polk County, Florida, as the most aviation-friendly destination in North America. Further, it is our hope that cities and counties across the country will compete with us for that title, essentially starting a pro-aviation wave of civic pride that will propel the industry in this country back into growth mode.

That’s not just a slogan, however. Setting your sights on being the most aviation-friendly destination in North America takes some effort. It means getting the governing bodies of those municipalities and the county focused on the benefits of aviation.

We involve aviation as a whole. We include the educational aspects of the industry, from elementary school right up through high school, technical school, and college.

Finding success requires letting the movers and shakers in those towns realize that even if their city doesn’t own an airport, there is a municipally owned field within a short commute — and that’s a benefit the city can use to its advantage when getting serious about its economic development efforts.

Public officials have to see the advantages of aviation to everyone within their borders, from 10-year-old kids riding a bus to school, to the banker and the manufacturer sitting around the lunch table downtown. Let me tell you, if you take the time to share the vision with them, they get it.

This is no pipe dream. We’re making it happen. You can, too.

Unlike most places in the U.S., we’ve got multiple city governments issuing proclamations of support for general aviation. We’ve got city managers wondering how they can more effectively leverage aviation to the advantage of their cities. We’ve got businessmen and women coming out to ask how they can get involved. And, perhaps most important of all, we’ve got teenagers headed to the airport after school to fly, to work on aircraft, and to lay the groundwork for success in school that will lead to rewarding careers in or out of aviation.

I tell this story a lot, because our goal isn’t simply to become the most aviation-friendly destination in North America. No, our plan is to help others become increasingly aviation friendly and benefit from the process. I’m happy to say that’s happening, too.

Last week while driving to an appointment my phone rang. On the other end was a gentleman from California who had heard about what we’re doing, the kind of success we’re having, and wanted to ask how he could get his town headed in the same direction.

People are talking. I encourage you to be one of them.


  1. says

    One of the key airports in Polk county is Lakeland, the home of Sun n Fun with a full time museum and an aviation high school. This fellow is right, what is going on there has a great impact on aviation and the general financial welfare of the community. James F. Dorman, past Director of Sun and Fun and graduate of Lakeland High 1959-60

  2. Norman Davis says

    It’s unfortunate that Marion county can’t figure out how to be more aviation oriented. With the county’s ridiculously high hangar rent fees, and requirements for huge liability insurance coverage by the aircraft owners, it;s little wonder why the county is 50 behind the times.

    • Greg W says

      Marion county is not the only airport with high fee’s and requirements. Many airports I have been at don’t want you if you don’t burn jet A, if you do many fee’s somehow are forgotten. These are small county airports with less than 60 based aircraft.

      • says

        Greg and Norman; Could either of you gents tell me WHO and Where does the revenue come from to pay for ANY airports operating expenses? (multiple choice)
        1. Those who $pend for $ervices rendered
        2. The “friendly” FBO (from his/her) own pocket – to make up debit balance
        3. Charitable donations from EAA, etc members?
        4. 1 and 2 ONLY

        NOTE: Did someone pull the plug on the “Pilots Lounge Hobbs Meter”?

  3. Skip Dykema says

    Dear Jamie,
    I’ve lived in Florida for 40 years. I have no idea where Polk County is. Am I supposed to do research? Can you at least name one airport in Polk County so I could possibly participate in this “best county for GA in the nation”? How many airports are there? What are their names? I’ll bet most people in Florida don’t know where Polk County is and everyone outside of Florida doesn’t know where Polk County is. Name a city. Name an airport. Just saying………..

    Skip Dykema

  4. Joe Barnhart says

    I travelled from Fort Worth, TX to get my seaplane rating at Jack Brown’s last March, and I can certainly agree it’s at least “one ” of the most aviation friendly places I’ve seen!

  5. Charlie Wolff says

    The fact that Fantacy of Flight, one of the greatest aviation attractions in the entire world is in Polk county, is a large percentage of the aviation draw.
    Add seaplane bases and a general population that supports aviation and you have a very positive attitude for airplanes.

  6. says

    I can think of one aviation company off the top of my head that would like to expand into Polk County….

    Len Assante
    VP, Communications
    Aviation Access Project
    “We manage, you fly, that’s it!”

  7. Dale F. Doelling says

    Hello Jamie,

    It’s always fun reading your articles. Regarding your statement that Polk County is the most aviation-friendly destination in North America, I think I and my fellow aviation enthusiasts here in Indian River county may disagree! But, now that you’ve piqued my interest, I guess I’ll just have to fly to Polk county to see exactly what you have to offer!


    Dale F. Doelling, CEO
    Secure Future Financial Corporation
    Sebastian, FL

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