Business Opportunity

PhotoPilot

New Member
Recently I've been presented with a rather unique opportunity that strongly appeals to me. After doing a bit of research and consulting with a few potential partners, I'd like to throw the idea out for you folks to ponder and respond to. If this 'thing' has any chance of working, I'm going to need all of the resources I can get!

There is an airport for sale in a part of the country I dearly love. It's surrounded by lakes, rivers, forests, farmland, and incredible beauty. It happens to be about 15 miles outside of one of the biggest tourist desinations in the state in an area that makes most of its living off of tourism and its natural resources (fishing, hunting, camping, boating, skiing, hiking, and other recrational pursuits). It's also only about 12 miles from a towered airport.

This particular property has a substantial amount of acreage, two turf runways in the 2700 foot range, and is located in the heart of the above-mentioned natural splendor. It's a bit pricey if you figure it per-acre, but considering that it has two maintained runways, a couple of descent hangars, office and maintainence buildings, and plenty of open property, the price is fair. There are currently 4 planes based there year-round and 6 to 8 in the summer and fall months. The owner is retiring and lives in the south.

My wife and I are quite enterprising and have both owned successful businesses in the past. We're considering purchasing this property and trying to pull a living from it. Currently, based on the economics of the area, we're discussing developing a fly-in resort community, a fly-in/drive-in bed-and-breakfast, a tailwheel/floatplane/bush oriented flight school, a flightseeing operation, or any combination of the above. We have considerable investment leverage thanks to business and personal connections and aren't worried about the financing at this point; if we can come up with a potentially viable business plan, we can secure money to get the ball rolling.

My question to all of you is: What other ideas do you have for a piece of property like the one described above? Anything I'm missing in terms of potential sources of income? What would you do with it? If you saw a cool ad somewhere, would you consider a turf-strip flight school, B&B, or resort?

We don't want to make millions - we just want to pay off our debt, live with relative comfort, and have a lot of fun. We both work hard, have many talents (I'm a photographer, carpenter, former outdoor professional, and soon-to-be CFI, CFII, and MEI; she's a high school teacher, massage therapist, and detail-oriented business/budgeting whiz), and aren't afraid to get our hands dirty. With our connections and personalities, I think we could make this thing 'fly'
if we could come up with a good combination of 'approaches'
.

Thanks for whatever thoughts you might have!

Best,

PhotoPilot
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
If you want to make a "living" I'd focus on the tourism portion of the equation. Maybe - to start - set up a fly-in "campground." Later work in a B&B. The flight school portion I think would be a break-even proposition at best but if you had one (tailwheel/bush/etc) it's one more attraction to bring folks - who fly - into the property. It'd be rough but with enough creativity and the right marketing almost anything is possible.
 

ready2fly

Well-Known Member
Best of luck! If you need a CFI for you school... I'll have my cert in about three to four months.... drop me a line. Seriously.

R2F
 

Mongoose

New Member
If you're close to a major tourist location, capitalize on that first. Become the fly-in destination of choice for pilots visiting that attraction. A half-decent campground / B&B in an attractive location combined with some cheap rental cars and a small restaurant would be all that is needed to attract most pilots. Think about what you would look for in a weekend flying destination.

You're then a starting point for those who want to go fishing, hiking, or just get away for the weekend. Transportation off-property would be essential though.
 

PhotoPilot

New Member
The tourist link is the first thing I thought of, too. A fly-in campground (KOA of the air!) is a great idea! What a great way to spin the operation up to speed with a relatively low initial investment. A small restaraunt, B&B, camp ground, car rental might be the perfect start up with proper advertising. Flight school to soon follow, of course . . .


Being that close to a big people-draw is a huge plus and one of the main reasons that we're considering this. So many people vacation in the area that if we weren't able to make a consistent living, we think we could sell off 2 acre lots and turn it into a fly-in community of mixed full-time and tourist-season homes (40 lots at a low end figure of $35,000 ea. leaving plenty of room for taxiways, roads, yards, runway clearance, community parks, etc.), and turn the maintainence of the airport over to a 'fly-in community homeowners association' over a period of 5 to 7 years. That would take our initial investment of around $500,000 and send us packing with about $1,400,000 (minus expenses, fees, taxes, interest, and on and on). If that was how we got out, it would probably end up being a break-even gig, but that's pretty good considering . . .
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
Or just save yourself the trouble and headaches and wire that $500k to me.
 

Tim

New Member
I agree with a few others make an area for camping. I think that will attract quite a few flyers who are in search of a new place to fly. Make it descent though and the word will spread. Offer some type of attraction every so often like a fly-in or in available a dinner/dance night with a vintage them like the 40's or something...A local airport did that here a while back and I heard it was a big hit...Lots of men dressed like military flyers from WWII
 

Kristie

Mama Bear....
Staff member
I'm always hearing about restaurants to visit at the airports.... go with the tourism of bringing people in for a entertainment complex that would include restaurants, maybe something like jillians (restaurant, arcade, dance club) and that type of thing....

who knows - your location could be sportin the "best made hamburger" for a country airport!
 

tonyw

Well-Known Member
Based upon what you said your wife and you have skills in, I would suggest that you focus on some kind of B&B/spa/wedding spot. You say that you're in a great tourist location so that would definitely draw some interest for that kind of thing. People who are looking for a different kind of experience, where they're not in some cookie cutter type hotel, would probably be interested in that. You could stress the relatively undeveloped nature of the place for those who are looking to get away from it all or who are looking to have their wedding in a unspoiled spot.

When you get this thing rolling, let me know if you need marketing ideas!
 

Mongoose

New Member
What do the local residents think about the airport? Do you think there might be resistance to an increase in traffic? Or to a fly-in community?
 

I_Money

Moderator
B and Bs are incredible hard work, especially if you are doing it yourself, a flying campground with some good PR would work out much better.
 

JaceTheAce

Well-Known Member
First of all, where the heck is this place?

You might want to first provide a Fly-In Camp Ground, then later add in the B&B. I think what would be really cool is if you constructed small cabins, and then offered a scheduled breakfast/lunch/dinner at the B&B for your cabin guests. I think if you have the opportunity, go for it!

The tourism industry seems to me more stable than the aviation industry...so if not many people are flying in to camp or use the cabins, you can always market towards the people that would access the resort by car, then provide site seeing tours from the air or bush flying fishing trips.

Maybe later you could build 6-8 400 sq foot cabins and offer one 900 sq foot one for larger groups.

I think this would be a successful business that would bring enough profits to live off of and enjoy life.
 

little_cricket

Well-Known Member
Air tours or glider rides might be more stable than a flight school in tourist local, but you might be able to do both on a smaller scale. But hey what do I know, you could always check with a developer on options and feasability. It could be a lot of fun or.... True LABOR of love. Good luck.
 

PhotoPilot

New Member
Thanks for all of the input! The location is northern Midwest, but I'm rather protective of the property right now so that's all you get!
When all of this is settled I'll let you all in on the exact location but you might have to wait a few months.

We realize that unless we just develop the property and turn it around, we're going to have to have a few combination approaches. At this point, (assuming that the proposal looks good when we're done) we're thinking of selling the property to the north of the runways as a fly-in community (about 15 to 20 lots) and recouping some of our initial investment. We would then turn the southern property into a B&B and fly-in campground with flightseeing services.

On the other hand, if it looks like we won't be able to make a steady income, we'll buy into it with a few investment partners, develop it in a tasteful, environmentally responsible way, and turn it for a profit.

Either way, it's a cool little airpark that deserves to be saved. The current owner is petrified that some developer is going to raze the hangars and landing strips in favor of a regular old subdivision. It would be a shame to lose such a cool little grass strip.

Anyway, thanks again! Keep it coming . . .
 

Mongoose

New Member
I do have one other question though. What's an..

[ QUOTE ]
outdoor professional

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Also, if it's in the Northern Midwest, what is the flying season like there? There might be a limited market for a fly-in community that gets snowed in for days on end, or requires everyone to have an all-weather twin in the hanger
Of course I might be thinking too far North

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go clear the driveway.
 

lilrkt

New Member
Actually there are a few communities like this in Michigan and from what I understand, they do quite well. They do have a paved strip though. You may want to look at paving one of the strips. If there is no fuel there, that may be another thing to look at. I do know that I am one of those people who like to frequent the smaller airports like the one you describe. If you do actually do this, I will probably visit eventually!
 

PhotoPilot

New Member
First, it is in an area that would not allow winter ops unless you equiped your plane with skis. However, if the push was in the 'fly-in resort' direction, the demographics suggest that the owners-to-be would use the property as summer retreats. The number of golf course condo owners who only visit in summer is staggering! Paving would be another option but would require much more investment both in construction and maintainence.

As an interesting side note, because the state considers the airport to be a public use facility (though privately owned), the state covers the insurance costs. As long as the current conditions are maintained (consisting of minimum runway length, width, slope obstruction clearance, taxi way widths, and a few other things), there would be no liability costs to the owners. Of course, a B&B, campground, school, etc. would have to carry insurance, but anything field related is covered.

Next, by 'outdoor professional' I mean that I have worked as a kayak guide and instructor, mountain bike guide, fly fishing guide, nature photo tour leader, etc. A lot of my guiding and outdoor experiences have been in either this location or locations much like it and I am very aware of the recreation potential of the region. Imagine flying your Maule, Skyhawk, or Super Cub into a grass strip, having a great meal, hitting the sack in your own cozy, one room log cabin, then getting up before sunrise and heading to a sparkling, gurgling trout stream where you're treated to a guided trip either wading or in a McKenzie River drift boat. Then it's back to the fly-in ranch/resort/whatever for an afternoon meal and an evening flight over the some of the most beautiful Great Lakes shoreline. I think there are a number of doctors, lawyers, business owners, etc., who own planes in the surrounding big cities (2 to 3 hour flights max) who would jump at that chance if they knew about it. And, if trout fishing isn't your thing, just substitute grouse or deer hunting, hiking, canoeing, mountain or road biking, Great Lakes fishing, boating, sailing, camping, sea kayaking, outdoor skills workshops, spa getaways, massage, seaplane or aerobatics training, golfing, photography, etc., etc., etc. There are so many options that are down right accessible from this location that it's almost overwhelming!

So . . . there you go!
 

donttouchanything

New Member
Hey Photopilot it looks and sounds like a great opportunity. I think I know the area you are talking about and I think you'd have a good chance of making a go of it. And if worst came to worst you can allways fall back on the value of the land to do something else.
 

Mongoose

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Next, by 'outdoor professional' I mean that I have worked as a kayak guide and instructor, mountain bike guide, fly fishing guide, nature photo tour leader, etc. A lot of my guiding and outdoor experiences have been in either this location or locations much like it and I am very aware of the recreation potential of the region. Imagine flying your Maule, Skyhawk, or Super Cub into a grass strip, having a great meal, hitting the sack in your own cozy, one room log cabin, then getting up before sunrise and heading to a sparkling, gurgling trout stream where you're treated to a guided trip either wading or in a McKenzie River drift boat. Then it's back to the fly-in ranch/resort/whatever for an afternoon meal and an evening flight over the some of the most beautiful Great Lakes shoreline. I think there are a number of doctors, lawyers, business owners, etc., who own planes in the surrounding big cities (2 to 3 hour flights max) who would jump at that chance if they knew about it. And, if trout fishing isn't your thing, just substitute grouse or deer hunting, hiking, canoeing, mountain or road biking, Great Lakes fishing, boating, sailing, camping, sea kayaking, outdoor skills workshops, spa getaways, massage, seaplane or aerobatics training, golfing, photography, etc., etc., etc. There are so many options that are down right accessible from this location that it's almost overwhelming!

So . . . there you go!


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Dammit, you've sold me. Best of luck to you both!
 

drumminpilot

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
Imagine flying your Maule, Skyhawk, or Super Cub into a grass strip, having a great meal, hitting the sack in your own cozy, one room log cabin, then getting up before sunrise and heading to a sparkling, gurgling trout stream where you're treated to a guided trip either wading or in a River drift boat.

[/ QUOTE ]

Sounds like Gaston's in Mtn. Home, AR. That place is doing great seasonal business strickly from tourists. You might check them out. www.gastons.com That might give you some ideas. I think it's a great idea, best of luck!!!!
 
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