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Loveland council to eye incentive package for Customs office at airport

LOVELAND – The Loveland City Council in November is likely to consider an economic-development incentive package to help a private developer pay for a U.S. Customs office at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport.

Windsor-based developer Martin Lind, whose Water Valley Land Co. developed the Discovery Air Charter Inc. campus just south of the airport, recently won approval from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency for his application to host the Customs office there after the airport’s governing commission in September decided that paying for 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. 

At Thursday’s meeting of the airport board, Lind formally withdrew his request that the board provide any monetary assistance, opting instead to work with Loveland economic-development director Kelly Jones on an incentive package to be presented to the Loveland City Council.

“It’s not going to be near what we asked the airport for,” Lind told BizWest, “but it’s an enormously good-faith effort for Loveland to step forward and see the value.

“Kelly and I have a great relationship,” he said. “I’m retracting my request [to the airport] but this is going to happen. This is so important for our region that we’re going to go ahead.”

Jones said she and Lind would work to put together a funding request that likely would go before the city council on Nov. 15 and then face a final vote on Dec. 6.

“I think that Discovery Air is willing to take a little more risk on the private side to bring this,” she said, “and it alleviates the airport’s budget concerns. They don’t have a budget to incentivize like the city or the county does.

“So after watching the negotiations the past couple of months of commission meetings, I offered to take it offline just to the city of Loveland to deal with directly. Since then, Martin and I have come to some terms between the economic-development incentive fund and Discovery Air. I can’t talk about the terms until we go now in front of the City Council process for approval because it’s still in negotiation until then. But we’ve come to some simpler terms, and Nov. 15 is the date we’re targeting for council to consider it, and Martin Lind and Scott Holst from Discovery Air will be there” to present the proposal.

As part of its annual budget process, the Loveland City Council has made annual allocations to the economic-development incentive fund since it was formed in 2013. When she became economic-development director in 2017, Jones said, the fund’s balance was around $1.2 million, whereas today it stands at approximately $300,000.

“In down years since, it’s been as low as $50,000,” Jones said, and in good years it’s been as high as $450,000.

“If we don’t use it, it rolls over into the next year and accumulates. We’re very particular about giving out incentives and use them sparingly,”

Although Lind expressed disappointment that the airport commission “didn’t see the value” in the Customs office and noted that “it’s such an oddity that a private entity has to take the lead because a government entity can’t get it done,” he also acknowledged that at Thursday’s meeting, “the board was very appreciative of our effort and complimentary of my team that pulled this off.”

The next steps, he said, are “the meetings with Loveland but also between us and Customs to get their space designed and get them up and operating. My priority is to make sure we perform for U.S. Customs.”

Northern Colorado Regional Airport director Jason Licon could not be reached for comment before BizWest’s afternoon deadline.

Earlier this month, Customs and Border Protection announced that Lind’s Discovery Air facility and 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 told BizWest he expects the facility to be open by the first quarter of 2023, but the exact timing is up to the feds.

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 have had to 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, because the airport owned by Fort Collins and Loveland has had no such facilities.

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.

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