When Henrico business owners need to ship merchandise fast or reach a destination quickly, they know they can rely on Richmond International Airport (RIC). Located in eastern Henrico, the airport has been the Gateway to Virginia’s Capital Region since 1927.
“As recently as 2000, ticketing and baggage claim at RIC occupied an undersized, single-level terminal dwarfed by two parking garages,” says Troy Bell, RIC Director of Marketing and Air Service Development, when asked about the evolution of the airport. “And then modernization efforts kicked into a higher gear.”
It now makes a $2 billion annual impact on the region. For the fiscal year ending on June 30, 4,267,825 million passengers walked through RIC’s gates and total cargo increased 2.5 percent.
Focus on the Future
On August 17, 2019, Perry J. Miller assumed the role of RIC’s CEO, replacing Jon Mathiasen, who is retiring after 19 years at the helm. Miller was the interim CEO of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority in Jackson, Mississippi, and has more than two decades of leadership experience with the Houston (Texas) Airport System. Though he says that RIC is almost like an airport utopia, he’s looking forward to enhancing the customer experience even further through tech and a continued commitment to inclusion and supplier diversity.
A new leader is not the only recent change for RIC. Construction for the expansion of Concourse A is already underway, with a target completion date of late spring 2020.
“The Concourse A Extension project is a timely expansion of a key facility at RIC,” says Bell. “While the airport has available capacity for growth, demand has increased for overnight aircraft parking positions, and this project addresses that demand. In addition to more gates, the extension creates new space for future food and beverage locations, more retail, public restrooms, and office space.”
Investing in Infrastructure
This is not the first time RIC has undergone a facelift. The Capital Region Airport Commission, owners and operators of the facility since 1975, have a rich partnership with its four participating localities – Henrico, Richmond, Hanover and Chesterfield – and has done everything it can to help the region succeed. This includes investing nearly half a billion dollars in capital and infrastructure improvements over the past 20 years. In fact, RIC has had as many as 10 major projects underway in a single year.
Enhancements include increasing parking to 10,500 spaces, the addition of a new air traffic control tower and the expansion of the terminal from 16 gates to 22. 2007 was a milestone year that introduced a new two-level, open, airy passenger terminal to travelers. Today, seven major carriers offer non-stop flights to major domestic destinations and connections to global ones.
But Henrico businesses don’t just benefit from near-effortless travel: RIC is also one of the busiest air cargo facilities in the nation, handling 140 million pounds annually. FedEx Freight Forwarding, one of three integrated cargo carriers, provides time-definite delivery usually in one, two or three business days to most world markets. Plus, RIC is designated as Foreign Trade Zone #207, which international companies can use to reduce logistics costs and increase global logistics efficiencies.
A Reflection of Success
If RIC is flying high, it’s in large part due to the vitality of the Greater Richmond Region. In a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial, the powers that be were quick to credit a good local economy, low unemployment, a robust housing market, and a multitude of business relocations and expansions in the Henrico area.
Alphasonics USA, a UK-based company specializing in ultrasonic cleaning systems for the print and medical industries, chose Henrico as the location for its new operations center. As for how they reached their decision, Christopher Jones, Alphasonics Vice President, was quoted as saying, “The Richmond International Airport has great links to all major territories that we want to do business with [and] no shortage of companies in the state and surrounding states that we want to work with…”
Bell, who has served at RIC since 2000, knows firsthand the extreme evolution Eastern Henrico has undergone. He cites the reimagined transit system, the award-winning GRTC Pulse, which connects local workers and travelers to the RIC terminal by bus every 30 minutes, as a contributor to the airport’s continued success.
He’s also seen the development of the Shops at White Oak Village and the rise of several area hotels, including: Shamin Hotels’ upcoming transformation of an airport-adjacent hotel into a full-service, upscale Sheraton by Marriott property, and RIC’s newest nearby airport Fairfield Inn & Suites, which officially opens August 22.
But perhaps most stunning in eastern Henrico’s trajectory is the establishment of its identity as a tech hub with the buildout of White Oak Technology Park. The master-planned industrial park is home to QTS Data Center, which is the fourth-largest data center on the planet coming in at 1.5 million sq. ft. and is the termination point for MAREA and BRUSA, the two highest-capacity subsea cables in the world. By 2020, QTS will also be the termination point for the Google-owned Dunant cable, which will leverage space division multiplexing technology to transmit a stunning 250 terabits of data per second.
Facebook also calls White Oak Technology Park home. The tech company has invested $1.75 billion in Henrico to erect a five-building data center, bringing 200 full-time jobs to our area.
Henrico’s trajectory is just the type of fuel RIC needs for intense growth. There’s no doubt the airport is positioning itself to meet the aviation needs of our region both today and tomorrow. RIC recognizes its significance as a point of global connection and is focused on continued growth for the good of our residents, our region, and our area businesses.