Air cargo/parcel shipping: DHL makes Air Park donation to Wilmington, Ohio official
June 03, 2010
Following a January announcement in which it announced it had reached a preliminary agreement with the Clinton County Port Authority to donate its former Air Park in Wilmington, Ohio to the local Wilmington community, express delivery and logistics services provider DHL said at a press conference yesterday the transaction was official.
The air park will be redeveloped for future use as an airport/commerce park. This news comes nearly one year after DHL moved its U.S hub operations from Wilmington to the Kentucky-based Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. CCPA officials said that it plans to lease a portion of the air park to ABX’ parent Air Transport Service Group (ATSG).
“We are pleased to accept this donation today,” said John Limbert, Chairman of the CCPA, in a statement. “However we understand it is just the beginning of the process of reactivating the Air Park. There is still a lot of work ahead of us.”
CCPA officials said that approximately 1,500 acres of land and several buildings located, for the most part, “inside the fence” of the airport are included in this property transfer, with ATSG, ABX Air and AMES continuing their leases of buildings at the airport.
DHL initially set up shop in Wilmington, Ohio in 2005, following its 2003
acquisition of Seattle-based Airborne Inc. for $1.05 billion. When that deal was inked, DHL acquired all of Airborne’s services, customers, and assets, except for its airline operations. The airline became an independent company called ABX Air, and DHL leased ABX’s aircraft under what it termed an “arm’s length” agreement.
But due to declining volumes and severe financial losses, DHL eliminated U.S. domestic-only air and ground services to focus on international import and export offerings in major metropolitan areas in January 2009. The last ABX Air Flight out of Wilmington lifted off to JFK Airport in New York on July 24, 2009.
In an interview with LM earlier this year, CCPA’s Limbert said the strategy-or vision-for the air park’s future would be to create an economic platform for Southwest Ohio that encourages multi-user growth.
“Historically, the air park has been a one-client employer,” said Limbert. “And I think the go forward strategy would be to focus on more multiple employers; some may be tied to logistics and airfreight, and some may be technology- or defense-related. The clear lessons learned-not that the area did not benefit from DHL and ABX-is the need to develop multiple users so we have a diverse employment base.”
CCPA added that it has been working with the State of Ohio, the County Commissioners, the Mayor’s office and other Economic Development leaders, have been bringing visitors to the Air Park, sharing information on building specifications and discussing possible business opportunities. Now that it can enter into agreements with these groups, it said that the CCPA will be able to negotiate in more detail with these potential tenants what it would take to make things move forward.
“With today’s official donation of the Wilmington Air Park, we are confident that the community here and throughout southwest Ohio will be poised to prosper and attract new and exciting development to the Air Park property in the future,” said said Ian Clough, CEO of DHL Express USA, in a statement.
Jerry Hempstead, president of Hempstead Consulting, told LM that this move was long expected, considering DHL had to maintain the Air Park, although there was no shipping activity or any other commercial activity through the Air Park that would generate any income for DHL owning and operating the facility.
He added that no interest in purchasing the Air Park was expressed by FedEx, whom has a hub in Indianapolis or UPS whom has its Worldport Hub in Louisville, Ky.
“In flying terms these airports are so close there would be no advantage for those carriers to consider relocating a national or regional sort there,” he said. “Some ideas have been floated for the Airborne Air Park and its facilities. One is a base for in flight aircraft testing.
The Wilmington Air Park still serves as the major operation for ATSG an airline that owns ABX Air, noted Hempstead. ABX provides aircraft to DHL although the flights operate into and out of Cincinnati now. ATSG currently maintains its aircraft maintenance operation there which sells its services to other companies.
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