Economic Development, Government, and Travel & Tourism

Kent panel appoints airport authority

Transition should be seamless, since it’s the same leadership group.

September 25, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) The recently approved Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority has its board members.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners adopted the Articles of Incorporation for the authority Aug. 27 and subsequently submitted the articles to the Secretary of State, which filed them Sept. 2.

With the appointments, the authority is complete in terms of action by the county, said Daryl Delabbio, Kent County administrator/controller.

He added that the Federal Aviation Administration still has to make a decision regarding the authority.

Last week, county commissioners approved the new board of the GRFIAA. The board is the same as prior to the independent authority: Roger Morgan, Ted Vonk, Dick Vander Molen, Steve Heacock, Floyd Wilson Jr., Birgit Klohs and David Slikkers.

Vonk, Morgan and Vander Molen are county commissioners. Klohs is the president and CEO of The Right Place Inc.; Heacock is vice president of public affairs and research at Spectrum Health; Slikkers is the owner of Tiara Yachts; and Wilson is executive vice president and chief community officer of Metro Health Hospital.

“This will be a seamless transition,” Vander Molen said. “We’ll see the airport’s success continue on to bigger and better things.”

The articles outlined the rules of the GRFIAA board of seven members. Only three of the board members are elected officials, while at least one board member — Slikkers, in this case — is a resident of either Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon or Ottawa counties.

Citizen and commissioner interest was sought through the Kent County website, but the commission interview team — consisting of Stan Stek, Jim Talen and Shana Sholl — suggested the transfer of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport board be appointed.

The board members have staggered term times: Morgan’s and Heacock’s terms expire in December 2016; Vonk’s, Wilson’s and Slikkers’ expire in December 2017; and Vander Molen’s and Klohs’ expires in 2018.

The authority does not have taxing power, and the county still owns the airport, leasing it to the authority. It will be self-sufficient financially, generating revenue from sources such as parking, airline fees and tenants.

Kent County voted in favor of a regional airport authority in September 2014, but Michigan legislators didn’t approve legislation allowing the authority’s creation until this spring. In the past, airport authorities have been established for the Detroit Metro airport and Capital Regional International Airport in Lansing.

“Giving local communities a louder voice in the operation of local airports can do wonders for a regional economic asset like the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. This legislation is a big win for the greater Kent County area. With it, we can continue to make sure one of the drivers of the region’s economy is well managed and continues growing,” said State Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, who introduced the bill in the House.

A few more agreements must be made now between Kent County and the GRFIAA, Delabbio said, including a transfer of assets.

“There are also a myriad of administrative details that have to be attended to,” he said.

“Any agreements entered into between the county and authority will be brought through our standing committee and board process.”

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