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Lind wins OK for Customs office near NoCo airport

LOVELAND – A Windsor-based developer has won approval from the federal government to open a U.S. Customs office near the Northern Colorado Regional Airport at Loveland.

Martin Lind, whose Water Valley Land Co. developed the Discovery Air campus just south of the airport, applied to host the Customs office there after the airport’s governing commission in September decided that funding a new terminal was more important and that the cost to add the Customs office would mean it couldn’t provide additional staff at the airport.

“That has been a pretty big point of frustration. They don’t see the value that we did,” Lind told BizWest. “We had to take all the risk to get qualified, but our tenants needed it, and it saves us tens of thousands of dollars if we have Customs here.”

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency last week announced that Lind’s Discovery Air facility at Northern Colorado Regional Airport, along with 23 other aviation facilities around the nation, had been approved for the new Customs offices through the reimbursable-services program.

“But we have to do 100% at our risk,” Lind said. “This is a private treaty between us and the government. We have to give them about 1,000 square feet of space. They need office space, a business counter, and a secure holding area for nefarious characters.”

Lind said he expects the facility to be open by the first quarter of 2023, but the exact timing is up to the feds.

The cities of Fort Collins and Loveland own the airport, and Kelly Jones, Loveland’s economic-development director, will brief the airport commission on Thursday about any help that the city might provide Lind or the airport to establish and staff the office. The topic also may come up Tuesday night as the Loveland City Council considers its 2023 budget allowance for the airport, including an amendment to increase the amount for the terminal design contract with Dibble Engineering Inc. The total of more than $245,000 is to be reimbursed through federal grants.

Jones told BizWest on Monday that she would be “unable to respond with a statement until I first give a quick update to the airport commission this Thursday afternoon.” Airport director Jason Licon had not returned a call seeking comments before BizWest’s deadline.

Some of the region’s largest companies, such as Nutrien Ag Solutions Inc. and Woodward Inc., fly internationally to and from Northern Colorado Regional Airport but must stop on the way back into the United States at other airports that have Customs offices, such as Rocky Mountain Regional Airport in Broomfield or the airport in Casper, Wyoming. However, Lind stressed that the new office in Northern Colorado would benefit more than wealthy corporations; it would also be open to the public for immigration and other services.

“This is a much bigger deal than just having access for international travel,” Lind said. “It’s open to any traveler.”

An amendment to the Homeland Security Act authorized CBP to enter into partnerships with private sector and government entities to provide new or expanded services on a fee basis. Those services include customs, agricultural processing, border security, support and immigration inspection-related matters at ports of entry. Associated costs may include the salaries of additional staff, overtime hours, administration and transportation expenses.

According to the agency’s news release, “these public-private partnerships will allow approved private sector and state and local government entities to reimburse CBP for expanded services for incoming commercial and cargo traffic and international traveler arrivals. Since the Reimbursable Services Program began in 2013, CBP has expanded it to include 316 stakeholders. The program has provided more than 1.1 million additional processing hours at the request of CBP’s partners, accounting for the processing of more than 16.7 million travelers and more than 2 million personal and commercial vehicles.”

The enabling statute includes several limitations, according to the release. “Reimbursable services are limited to overtime costs and support services for airports with 100,000 or more arriving international passengers annually.  Airports with fewer than 100,000 arriving international passengers annually may offset CBP for the salaries and expenses of not more than five full-time equivalent CBP officers.  Reimbursable services agreements will not replace existing services.”

The airport commission in September had turned down Lind’s request for $200,000 a year to pay for those five CBP officers.

Source: BizWest