Victor White is ready to do business at Mid-Continent Airport.
The city is working on an inventory of its available land at the airport as it ramps up marketing efforts to lure aviation-related businesses.
The reason? Construction material costs are down and Wichita must remain visible in the cutthroat competition for aviation businesses, White, Wichita's director of airports, said.
White has company on the west side of Wichita, where brokers are offering up private land near the airport for similar aviation-related businesses.
"We think the timing is good because costs are low for construction activities," White said. "If you're putting in roads and utilities, you won't find a cheaper time to do it than now.
"And if you wait a couple of years and demand picks up for construction, that won't be the case. We think that the folks with the wherewithal to do these projects financially right now are the smart ones."
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said the city is responding to increasing business interest from outside companies — at the airport, in addition to across town.
"We're seeing things improve here in 2011, and it's just good business for us to get in front of it as new opportunities become available," Brewer said.
Vicki Pratt Gerbino, president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, said transportation proximity can be key in industrial recruitment.
"For us, having land at the airport that has runway accessibility is critical," she said. "If that exists, we can market that site."
White said the inventory is under way and he's unsure exactly how much land to market to developers.
"We have 3,300 acres total on the campus, and a year ago we said there's about 800 of that available for development," White said. "We have maybe half that today."
But the city has already created a portal for interested developers at Mid-Continent's website, www.flywichita.com, under "business opportunities."
"We're going parcel by parcel through the property, remeasuring it and calculating what's available," White said. "We're dividing it into two basic categories — one with the access to runways and taxiways, meaning the airfield, and those that don't. And we're analyzing each parcel to see what the development constraints might be."
White downplayed the effect of Baton Rouge's failed bid to lure Hawker Beechcraft to its municipal airport on the marketing of his facility.
"We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to be competitive," he said. "Our competition from an airport standpoint isn't just regional airports.
"It's Charleston, S.C. It's Melbourne, Fla. When aviation companies are looking for the best deal from an airport to put in a factory or a large-scale maintenance operation, they look at Melbourne. So we want to see what the heck they're doing to land those projects."
At the same time, private commercial offerings have perked up near the airport.
Five commercial tracts along Harry near Seville, or just south of Kellogg near Indian Motorcycles, are being offered by Keller Williams Commercial, as is a vacant stone warehouse built in 2010 at 9520 W. Harry.
Keller Williams broker Cory Harkleroad, who's handling the properties, did not return calls seeking comment.
There's also available property in the Mid-Continent Industrial Park just off K-42 between Tyler and Maize Road, marketed by Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group.
And there are about eight acres near the Cessna complex marketed by Matt Eck Real Estate. No sale is imminent, Eck said.
"It's very tight," Eck said. "We're kind of resigned to the fact that we're going to have to hold on for the long haul. It'll get better."
"The activity's not a surprise," he said. "It's pretty common all over the country for businesses to locate on and next door to an airport. People are looking for a name recognition and location thing from a marketing and branding standpoint, and that's generally good for all of us."