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City to consider Air Center name change

City councilors will consider removing the word “international” from the Roswell airport’s name. New signage at the airport terminal omits the word. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The city’s Air Center should be renamed to remove the word “international,” a city staff member has recommended, and the city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission voted Thursday to forward that idea to a City Council committee.

The suggested name change from Roswell International Air Center to Roswell Air Center is part of a larger discussion city staff and the five-member commission are having about the vision, mission and strategic plan for the airport and related assets. Part of that discussion includes considering privatizing operations and the continued talk about possibly placing the Air Center under a regional authority.

Mark Bleth, marketing manager of the Air Center, said that the word “international” represents “false advertising” and is “deceptive.”

“We are not an international airport,” he said. “There is nothing about us that is international. We have no customs. We have no international flights. But doing our thing, dropping international and becoming the Roswell Air Center, does not preclude us from getting international flights or getting customs. It is just a name, and right now it is a very wordy name that has no real meaning.”

He said that basic marketing principles indicate that three-word names and three-letter acronyms are more catchy than those with four words or letters. If the name changes, he said, it will not cost the city a great deal of money, as signage and such would be replaced only as needed.

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He and others added that, whatever name is used by the public, the airport most likely will remain ROW as far as the Federal Aviation Administration is concerned.

The airfield, a military air base until 1967 when it became city property, took on the name of Roswell International Air Center in 2004, according to City Councilor Judy Stubbs.

“I think all of you know that I am passionate about the name as is,” she said. “I think you are all aware that I changed it in 2004 to ‘international’ because we did have a foreign trade zone for a very short period of time.”

The foreign trade zone at the airport, which no longer exists, allowed companies to ship or receive goods to and from other countries without paying entry fees or duties in many cases.

Prior to 2004, the airfield was known as the Roswell Industrial Air Center, and FAA documents use both Roswell Industrial Air Center and Roswell International Air Center when referring to Roswell’s airport.

The Legal Committee will now consider the name change suggestion. It is scheduled to meet next on Aug. 22.

City staff are also working to create the long-range plan for the Air Center, including developing vision and mission statements and a strategic action plan that will guide decisions in future years.

That discussion will continue in September, but Thursday’s talk included Bleth’s presentation about privatization of airports, which he said is not common in the United States but is more prevalent in other countries.

He said both airlines and taxpayers in the United States show reticence about having for-profit companies manage public assets. The benefit of privatization is that it brings much more money to the table to meet airports’ needs, he said.

“Whether or not we are an attractive project for (a private company) remains to be seen,” he said, citing an example of one recent deal at a much larger airport and a $4 billion to $5 billion project.

But, he said, there might be some aspects of public-private partnerships (P3s) that could be applied to running the Air Center, even if it remains city-owned.

Some of the discussion about long-range planning for the Air Center also included talk about inviting Chaves County or other government entities into the discussion.

“This is a regional airport that serves this area of New Mexico,” said Commission member Bud Kunkel. “Whatever we plan to do, we should start from that understanding.”

He added that Chaves County and other regional representatives should be invited to talk about the airport’s future.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh, who chairs the Airport Advisory Commission, said he does not object to broadening meeting participation, but he added that he is not sure that the airport should be viewed as a regional asset.

“I am not sure I agree with you,” he said. “With the exception of the MRG (minimum revenue guarantee) for the Phoenix flights, we have gotten zero support from anybody.”

He added that five of six Chaves County residents live in the Roswell city limits. U.S. Census 2018 population estimates put the percentage of Roswell residents in the county at 74%.

A suggestion was made by local resident Larry Connolly to change the commission’s meeting dates from the third Thursday of the month to Fridays. He pointed out that the Chaves County Board of Commissioners has scheduled its regular monthly meetings for the third Thursday, which means that its officials cannot participate in Airport Advisory Commission meetings.

Kintigh said that the meeting time had been discussed among commission members prior to setting a date and time. Commission member Riley Armstrong expressed his opposition to a change, saying he had made plans for the remainder of his term to attend the meetings as scheduled.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.