Airport, county welcomes new staff

ESCANABA – The Delta County Airport has made some leadership changes in the last month, but things have transitioned smoothly as airport officials settle into their new positions.

Delta County Airport Manager Kelly Smith took over the airport manager position June 1, following the retirement of former manager Connie Ness.

Smith, who previously had served as assistant airport manager, was originally hired by the county for her marketing and accounting background, as they were looking for someone to market the county’s renaissance zone and serve as an administrative assistant. She has been with the airport for more than nine years. Smith’s former position has been filled by Becka Holm, who took over as assistant airport manager June 17.

Holm holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Northern Michigan University and has experience working in marketing.

“With hiring Becka and having her start, she’s picked up quite quickly and she fits really well with me,” said Smith.

In addition to overseeing airport operations Smith is continuing to handle the county’s renaissance zone and the recently launched Delta Green Aerospace & Marine Integrator project, though Holm will become more involved as she continues to learn the ropes.

“It’s definitely been a learning curve,” said Smith. “We’ve had a few good pieces of equipment need major repairs. You hate to say it, but winter’s coming. Last year was a bad winter for us as far as a lot of snow, a lot of ice, a lot of cold, so the sand storage building is empty so that’s starting to get filled up.”

Holm said her new position has been an eye-opening experience so far.

“Ironically, that (Detroit News) article that highlighted Escanaba in kind of a negative fashion came out in the first week that I was here and I remember reading that article thinking, ‘Man, if folks could catch a glimpse of what happens here at the airport as far as the charter flights that come in, where they’re coming from, why they’re coming here.’ Just sharing with my family a little bit about my job, their eyes always open up and think, ‘Wow, people really do come to vacation in Delta County,'” said Holm.

Smith noted with the county’s new accounting software and new software programming being implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration and the state aeronautics department, the airport is keeping busy.

Though the FAA software is still being worked on, the state’s software is up and running and allows the airport to see the history and status of its capital improvement projects.

“All your financial statements, all your construction statements and everything will be on that computer program, which is a fabulous thing that they’re doing, but it’s definitely going to be a learning curve for everybody…,” said Smith. “It is being implemented this year. We’ve had training in May already, so our new capital improvement plan for the next five to 20 years is now going to be entered into that system and due by Aug. 31.”

Smith reiterated the benefit for people flying locally, noting Delta County Airport’s commercial flights offer competitive rates and are more feasible when factoring in fuel, hotel, and parking costs when departing from another airport.

“The biggest thing for us is all of our parking is free and we definitely are close to home,” she said.

And the airport is well on track to reach its 10,000 boardings required to receive grant money from the FAA; the Delta County Airport has had no issues filling up both its morning and afternoon flights to Detroit.

“Our numbers are up and we’re looking great,” said Smith. “For our 10,000 boardings, we’re well ahead of schedule and summer only looks better. Our numbers were only through June at the time and I’m almost to 8,000 already. It’s fabulous.”