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Falcon Field area in Mesa one of four Innovation Districts, mayor says
Falcon Field Airport, between McDowell, McKellips, Higley and Greenfield roads, is part of a job-creating area proposed by Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. (Photo by Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA)

Falcon Field Airport is in one of four Innovation Districts that will create high-quality jobs and a solid economic foundation for the city, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith says.

Boeing, 5000 E. McDowell Road, MD Helicopters, 4555 E. McDowell Road, and the businesses in the airport, between McDowell, McKellips, Higley and Greenfield roads, are large job generators for Mesa, Mayor Smith said.

“One part of innovation is, not only to attract new business, but to help existing businesses grow. We would love to see Boeing double, triple, quadruple their operations there. We have worked with Boeing consistently to see what we can do to attract new lines of business. And actually that plant not only assembles Apache helicopters, but it’s also involved in other very, very significant activities that make it a vibrant plant, a vibrant operation,” he said in a media briefing Jan. 29 at his office on the seventh floor of Mesa City Plaza, 20 E. Main St. “We’re going to do what we can to try and identify how we can best be a partner in innovation.”

Undeveloped property nearby and vacant buildings in the airport can also be utilized by job creators, he said.

More than 110 businesses are at Falcon Field Airport and they employ more than 1,000 people, according to the city’s website. That includes five air-charters, seven aircraft-components and -engines companies, 14 aircraft maintenance businesses and six photo-flights/sightseeing companies. Falcon Field Airport has land available for lease for aviation businesses, according to the website.

In the Falcon Field Airport area, vacant land near Higley Road could be used for new businesses, Mayor Smith said Jan. 29.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of in-fill, but when you really look at an aerial – even on airport property that the city owns – there is quite a large tract of property, especially on the east side around Higley, that we can further develop. We also have some undeveloped properties and some buildings that are vacant inside Falcon Field,” he said.

City-owned vacant land is available on and just outside the airport, Dee Anne Thomas, marketing/communications specialist II for the city of Mesa and Falcon Field Airport, said in a Jan. 31 e-mailed response to questions.

“There are approximately 86 acres of city-owned vacant land available for development within the airport (the area bounded by McDowell, McKellips, Greenfield and Higley roads). In addition, there are approximately 65 acres of orchard property that are owned by the city of Mesa/Falcon Field Airport located west of Greenfield Road and south of McDowell Road that are available for non-aviation commercial development,” Ms. Thomas said. “In addition, there are approximately 10 acres of vacant land that are currently under lease to a private tenant. This land, which is available for development through the lease holder, is located on the south edge of the airport along McKellips Road east of Greenfield Road,” she said.

She said one or more aviation-related businesses are being sought for the property along Higley Road north of the U.S. Post Office.

“It can be used as a single site or sub-divided into smaller sites,” she said. “The city has included in its capital improvement program the construction of a new taxi lane to this property to provide access to the runways.”

Mayor Smith first announced the concept of four Innovation Districts at his Jan. 24 state-of-the-city address and breakfast. It was presented by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce at the Mesa Hilton and attended by more than 500 people, he said.

In addition to Falcon Field and its aerospace businesses, Mayor Smith labels the Innovation Districts as Downtown, Fiesta and Gateway.

They are in “four different vibrant parts of our city, in places where we believe we have a real opportunity to create a … culture of innovation in the economy,” he said.

Each Innovation District is distinct, he said. There are the aircraft businesses in and around the Falcon Field district; downtown Mesa has new universities and colleges, light rail and city facilities such as the Mesa Arts Center; the area near Fiesta Mall includes Mesa Community College and hospitals; and there are education institutions and high-tech industry near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

“We’re going to look toward doing whatever we can do to make these four areas distinct and yet have a common purpose, and that is to drive innovation, to drive creativity and we believe that will help to drive jobs. That is our economic future,” Mayor Smith said Jan. 29.

“That’s what building a new American city is about - building a city that will last that is multi-generational, that is sustainable. All of the phraseology that you want to use, it’s really based on having that solid economic foundation and that comes down to jobs. So that’s my No. 1 focus as mayor.”

Mayor Smith said he plans to present proposals to the city council on the Innovation Districts, work with Mesa’s Economic Department and use the city’s iMesa program to study how to best implement the plans. iMesa is a grassroots improvement effort where residents submit, vote and comment on ideas that transform the community, according to www.mesaaz.gov/imesa.

The Innovation Districts are part of the second phase of the iMesa program that Mayor Smith announced during his 2010 state-of-the-city breakfast, according to a press release. Phase one led to a $70 million parks bond package with projects suggested by Mesa residents; the bonds were approved by voters last year.

The mayor does not foresee iMesa volunteers seeking bond packages in 2014.

“These innovation centers work perfectly with what iMesa is. We might give them – for example, the iMesa committee – the task of really finding some innovating ways to maximize what you might do with one of these specific innovation districts. We might find a specific area and have them work on it,” he said.

“The goal is innovation; it’s not simply having a one-size-fits-all. The reason that we named four Innovation Districts is because they are areas that offer unique opportunities and we think that we can focus in on those opportunities for the area,” Mayor Smith said.

“We’re going to have to seize the opportunity to create our own future in many ways. We can’t be expected to rely on outside forces to do it for us and if we are going to have a future, then that future is really related to our ability to create high-quality jobs – good jobs, jobs that will keep people here, that will draw people here and the way we can create those jobs is through innovation,” he said.

Post your opinions at arizona.newszap.com. Managing Editor Richard Dyer can be contacted at 480-982-7799, rdyer@newszap.com or on Twitter @RHDyer.

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Sidebar:

Business types being sought for Falcon Field:
According to Dee Anne Thomas, marketing/communications specialist II for the city of Mesa and Falcon Field Airport (www.mesaaz.gov/falcon_field/), the businesses that are being sought for location in and near Falcon Field and, right, land and buildings available for lease, include:
•Businesses requiring taxiway/runway access
•Businesses requiring a combination of office space and aircraft storage
•Businesses in support of aeronautical uses, such as aviation supply chain vendors
•Corporate aviation departments
•Aircraft/helicopter sales
•Aircraft/component/systems manufacturing
•Aircraft/helicopter restoration
•Aircraft/helicopter maintenance, repair, avionics, painting, interiors
•Aircraft/helicopter charters/recreational flights
•Aircraft/helicopter medical flight services
•Aerial or aviation photography
•Aircraft testing
•Fixed-base operators

Land, buildings for lease at Falcon Field
•On the airport there are a variety of building types that are available for lease or sale. Some are owned by the city of Mesa/Falcon Field Airport, and others are privately owned and built on land leased by the airport. It is difficult at a given point in time for the airport administration to know the total space available at the airport because private owners manage their own buildings.

•Currently there is a 20,000 square-foot city-owned hangar available for lease that is zoned for aircraft maintenance as well as storage.

•Included in the inventory of available privately-owned properties on Falcon Field are large hangars, hangar/office combinations, hangars that include offices and maintenance shops, and commercial office space.

•Based on the information that I have been given by private owners, the three commercial office buildings located on Falcon Field Airport all have some office suites available ranging in size from 253 SF to 4,600 SF.

•Most other available properties on the airport include combinations of hangar/office, hangar/office/storage or hangar/office/shop space. Some are permitted for aircraft maintenance and some are not.

•There is a new complex of 21 units that range from 1,440 to 5,800 total SF. It includes hangars ranging from 1,440 to 4,900 SF and offices ranging from 460-940 SF that are offered as individual hangars and hangar/office combinations.

•In addition to the above-mentioned new structure and three office buildings, there is approximately 68,000 SF of hangar space available at Falcon Field ranging in size from 1,440 SF to 14,000 SF, and 31,000 SF of available office space ranging in size from 800-16,800 SF. Some of these office units include shop space. These figures include one unique building available for sale or lease that includes a lobby, office space, a pilot lounge, an office/storage mezzanine, a 8,338 SF hangar, a workshop, a private aircraft ramp and a fuel farm.

•There also is an available 8,000 SF building that was formerly a restaurant that features an adjacent aircraft parking ramp. This building and its parking lot shade structures are completely solar-powered. An aviation use is sought for this property.

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