WILMINGTON, Ohio — At first glance, it appeared that the small town of Wilmington had received an economic blow from which it would not recover when air freight giant DHL announced it was leaving in 2008. Instead, the community underwent a renaissance that started when DHL agreed to donate its property to the community. That set in motion the beginning of a story of how the Clinton County Port Authority and several organizations like the chamber, the city, the county and existing businesses joined together to create the Wilmington Air Park.
Port Authority officials recognized the potential they had with an air park that is composed of 1,900 acres and a fully functioning airport with two parallel runways (9,000 feet and 10,701 feet) along with CAT III Landing instrumentation. Those assets, and the park’s 3 million square feet of warehouse, office and hangar space, would be attractive to companies, Kevin Carver, Executive Director of the Clinton County Port Authority, believed.
Carver and city and county officials were right. Today, the Air Park features aviation and aerospace companies that have selected the facility because of its aerospace, aviation and UAS focus.
Site Selection Magazine recently ranked Wilmington 10th on its list of Top Micropolitans for new and expanding corporate facility projects. A micropolitan is defined as a non-urban community with no more than 50,000 people.
The Air Park was a key reason for the Site Selection Magazine recognition. The publication notes that Wilmington boasts three key attributes — location, labor and logistics. The community’s convenience to Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton offers the geographic advantage of access to interstates and a wealth of well-trained workers.
Wilmington Air Park’s rural location offers wide open air space and makes the logistics of flying easier than many other locations, officials note.
As an airfield, Wilmington Air Park can handle 747-class jets with the two parallel runways. Its taxiways and parking areas are built for large aircraft. The Category III instrument landing system enables all-weather operations.
As a business park, the sprawling campus provides build-to-suit opportunities of almost any size. The administration complex offers 200,000 square feet of modern, office space with a robust IT infrastructure, fitness center, cafeteria, conference and training rooms, private offices and on-site parking.
Building F is a 1.1 million square foot facility built in 2005. More than 40 other facilities offer a range of uses, including warehouses, hangars and specialized operations facilities. Numerous interconnected “sort buildings” can function separately or as a network.
Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES), ABX Air Inc., Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and Air Transport International (ATI) are among those tenants.
In the aftermath of the DHL departure, the formation of AMES breathed life into the Wilmington Air Park and the region. The business venture started out with 300-plus employees, many of them aircraft mechanics and engineers who had been working for ABX Air.
Airborne Maintenance & Engineering Services, Inc. (AMES) is an aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider. The company provides heavy maintenance, line maintenance, material sales and service, component repair and overhaul, and engineering services to aircraft operators. AMES has three large hangars at the Air Park covering more than 200,000 square feet where highly trained technicians overhaul aircraft, perform routine inspections and repairs, and schedule maintenance services.
ABX Air, Inc. (ABX) is another example of the Air Park’s tenants. An all-cargo airline, ABX moves millions of pieces of freight every night in and out of its national air hub in Wilmington. Interestingly, DHL remains the airline’s largest customer. ABX operates a fleet of more than two dozen Boeing 767 freighters flying express cargo routes for customers in the United States and around the world.
The company also offers FAA-certificated flight crew training and operates three flight simulators at the air park.
Further enhancing its reputation as a center for aerospace technology, the Air Park was selected by the Air Force Research Lab and Sinclair Community College as a primary site to test Unmanned Aerial Systems. Located at Wright-Patterson Air Force base in nearby Fairborn, the Air Force Research Lab Center for Rapid Development has conducted testing at the Air Park since 2012.
The Air Park recently signed an agreement with the Ohio National Guard to permit UAS test flying for the Army. Sinclair Community College, the only community college in Ohio to receive a COA, also flies and tests Unmanned Aerial Systems at the Wilmington Air Park. Sinclair Community College and Southern State Community College in Wilmington recently announced a joint partnership to develop UAS training programs with an eye toward the agricultural industry. Both schools plan to train individuals for the growing Ohio UAS industry.
“Wilmington Air Park is a diverse and valuable resource for businesses in a variety of industries because of all of the assets,” Carver said. “We continue to work diligently to attract more companies who want to do business in a community that has a multitude of geographic, technology, infrastructure and quality of life advantages.”
For more information: WilmingtonAirPark.com