New Airport Names New Executive Director

There has been some changes in management at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.  Former Executive Director Randy Curtis has been moved to a different role, Director of Special Projects and John Wheat was named the Executive Director.  This move came quickly with little fanfare and only but a little commotion from one of the board members who held the only dissenting vote – Andy McKenzie.  McKenzie’s quarrel with the swift action was that it was just that, too fast.

In the past, airport positions have been well publicized, accepted many resumes and have opened up discussion for the board in advance.  The hiring of Wheat was fast, not well discussed in public and actually slipped through in the board meeting without his name being mentioned.

The quick movements were justified by other board members by the time-sensitive negotiations the board was in with Southwest and Delta Airlines over future landing fees.  As of date, the airlines have not been happy with the pace of negotiations and the new appointments were expected to accelerate a final agreement.  Landing fees are a significant revenue generator for the airport.  Concurrent with the appointment of Wheat as the new executive director, both airlines and St. Joe gave their nod of approval of Wheat as well.

Another appointment was made as well: Parker McClellan as the Deputy Executive Director.

I bet you’re wondering how much all these guys make.  I know I sure was.  In an article recently released in the News Herald, the annual salaries were noted:  John Wheat, Executive Director, $135,000; Parker McClellan, Deputy Executive Director, $100,000; Randy Curtis, Director of Special Projects, $116,000.

Here is the full press release:

Panama City, Fla. (April 27, 2011) – The Airport Authority has named John Wheat as the executive director of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. As executive director, Wheat is responsible for leading the operational and strategic efforts of the Airport and reports to the Airport Authority Board of Directors. Wheat brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the aviation industry and most recently served as COO of the Tampa International Airport, where he was responsible for the organization’s finances and operations, as well as brings valued relationships with key partners.

The Airport Authority has also introduced a new organizational model for the Airport with a leadership team that is well-positioned to take the organization forward. This includes Parker McClellan as Deputy Executive Director and Randy Curtis as Director of Special Projects. McClellan, who most recently served as the acting director for the Airport, is now the Deputy Executive Director to ensure a comprehensive leadership team with all airport activity working through this position and up to the Executive Director. Curtis will play an important role in the closing of the “old airport”, as well as ensuring the airport maintains positive relationships with various state and federal agencies. His historical and institutional knowledge will be valuable to the upcoming work on behalf of this organization.

With the addition of John Wheat, the Northwest Florida Beaches International leadership team brings the vision, experience and relationships to best leverage one of the community’s greatest assets. This strategic leadership team is focused on driving the region’s economic vitality as they lead the first international airport to open in more than 10 years. The gateway to beautiful world-famous beaches, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport boasts a plethora of convenient flights daily serviced by Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

$3 Movies at The Grand Theatre – Panama City Beach

Every Saturday,The Grand Theatre in Pier Park will feature family-friendly movies for only $3. That is not a misprint. $3 movies for families and that’s not all. The cost includes a small box of popcorn and a kid’s drink.

Show starts at 11:00 am, seating at 10:30.

Schedule of Saturday Morning Movies Showings:

Sept 26 Shark Tale

Oct 03 Madagascar

Oct 10 Flushed Away

Oct 17 Shrek 1

Oct 24 Sinbad – Legend of the Seven Seas

Oct 31 Prince of Egypt

Nov 07 Madagascar 2

Nov 14 Bee Movie

Nov 21 Shrek 2

Nov 28 No Movie

Dec 05 Chicken Run

Dec 12 Over the Hedge

Dec 19 Kung Fu Panda

The Grand Theatres are state-of-the art multiplex stadium seating movie theatres with 3D capabilities, digital sound, high-back rocker seats, a specialty café and a game room. Panama City Beach’s Grand 16, is the centerpiece of Pier Park. Patrons can not only enjoy movies, but shop and dine as well.

Airport: No New Name, Serious Grass Problems

While the buzz surrounding Tuesday’s airport board meeting centered around the potential new name for the 318 million dollar gamechanger, it was talk of grass and sod that dominated the meeting. In fact, due to the overwhelming interest in the new name, a special meeting, to be held October 7th, will address that issue specifically. Although, many attending the meeting didn’t get what they came for, the very tense discussion on the condition of soil and stabilization of areas through the airport kept everyone’s attention.

James Phoenix, from Phoenix Construction, said with a pang of exasperation in his voice, “We’ve got some issues, multiple issues and we need help.”

Heavy rain and inconclusive studies on the soil at the airport site have caused the development of large areas to be completely reworked and the bill to keep rising. Large stretches of land, nearly 1400 hundred acres worth, which was believed to be stabilized, faltered under harsh rain causing all the grass to die off. Runway areas and ditches in need of regrading, have caused the most problems for site staff. “The soil condition is not what we anticipated,” said George Roberts of PBS&J, “The grass is growing and then dying off from a lack of organics. We cannot make the grass grow within the specs.”

The suggestion from airport representatives to sod the area was met with heavy contention from the board. Mr. Bill Cramer, Vice Chairman of the airport board, questioned the airport staff as to why the board was not notified of the issues in compliance with permits and what happened to the additional $500,000 dollars added to the budget to mitigate the problems.

Although no final word was reached, sodding the 1400 hundred acres could cost an additional $1 million dollars. Recommendations will be brought to the board and discussed in the coming meeting.

In other news, the airport is reported to be at 73% complete overall with 93% of the site development package completed.

The next board meeting is scheduled for October 7th

Airport Authority Granted $4 Mil for State-of-the-Art Baggage System

IMG_1263The Panama City-Bay County International Airport Authority today announced that it has been awarded a Transportation Security Administration grant of just over $4 million dollars for a new Checked Baggage Inspection System at the new airport now under construction.

The grant will also be used for subsequent modifications needed for TSA to install an Explosive Detection system. The new airport is one of several airports to receive this system.

The state of the art security equipment is designed to enhance screening capabilities and airport safety and also facilitate customer service. Construction of the $318 million airport began in January 2008 and is scheduled to open in late May 2010.

Steve Earnest, Federal Security Director said, “This technology will strengthen security and streamline the baggage screening process.” He added, “This baggage handling system will better enable Panama City-Bay County International Airport to detect explosives and other threats while allowing for the growth of the new airport.”

What this means for you is a faster, safer and more efficient Checkin process, essentially cutting out additional lines and steps in getting you from the counter to the plane. As the representatives explained, this comprehensive system will allow patrons to give their bags at the Checkin counter, which will go through a behind the scenes screening process and out the door back to you safely and without waiting in any additional lines. The new technology will improve workplace safety for TSA employees by automating the baggage screening process, eliminating the need for passengers to walk checked baggage to a screening location and waiting for it to be cleared before proceeding to the security checkpoint. It will be the most up to date, efficient system in America.

The enhanced explosive detection technology also will provide on-screen viewing capabilities for TSA officers conducting baggage screening and reduce the number of re-scans and physical bag searches.

Governor Crist Visits New Airport – Called It "Awesome"

Florida Governor Charlie Crist visited the Panama City-Bay County International airport today and upon surveying the nearly completed site, said emphatically, “This is awesome.”  With few invited to be in attendance, the energy was high in anticipation and excitement to see what the Governor thought of not only the newest airport in the state of Florida, but the first airport built from scratch in the USA in 14 years.

Hosted by the Economic Development Alliance (EDA), the Govornor was invited to tour the new airport terminal and the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

In attendance was Jerry Ray, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communication of St. Joe, Representative Jimmy Patronis, Representative Marti Coley, Airport Authority Chairman Joe Tannehill, Airport Authority Vice Chairman Bill Cramer, TDC CEO Dan Rowe, and various other local officials, board members and the like.  Everyone was excited to show of the growing new addition to Panama City that will open in just 8 short months.

The goal of today’s get together was to show the Govornor the “economic engine” that will not only catapult our little area to the big map, but also drive jobs and economic growth to Panama City Beach.  Representative remarked today that he had “goosebumps” as he had not been up there since they broke ground.  I’m sure it was an amazing sight to see having not been there for that long.  I feel honored that the airport authority has been so gracious in allowing pcbdaily to cover the progress so closely.

Sometimes it is easy to forget just how close we are to planes landing at the new airport.  Today, Chairman Tannehill made mention to Crist that the airport will open May 18, 2010.

“We are on schedule and under budget,” said Chairman Joe Tannehill to Governor Crist during the period he had to brief the Governor on what was happening on site.  “We are all set to open May 18th, 2010.”

“I travel the state quite a bit and to see what’s happening in Bay County is nothing short of phenomenal,” remarked Gov. Crist.

On a side note, I was able to get a little time with Chairman Tannehill, Board member Rick Koehnemann, and Jerry Ray and all three agreed that a new brand and name was needed for the new airport to depict a more regional presence.  Chairman Tannehill said that this was something that would be discussed in the near future.

Suggest your names in the comments section below!

Airport bringing in third-party for commercial and industrial development

This news is a little stale, but I needed to get this up.

The Airport Authority decided last week to bring in a third-party developer to manage the development of the 1,400 acres set aside for commercial and industrial uses.  Authority members voted for Jones Lang LeSalle over four other companies including Hunt Development Group, St. Joe/Haskell, Taylor & Mathis and TranSystems.

The Jones Lang LeSalle website touts that they are a global company with over 750 locations worldwide, and they manage properties in countries ranging from India to New Zealand and everywhere in between.  They will bring their expertise here not only to ensure that the area around the airport is developed correctly, but that it has the best opportunity to be occupied by quality businesses and/or services.

I think this is great as it, again, opens up our area to people and organizations that are outside our market and operate on a much larger scale.

Airport Authority Board Meeting Agenda



             BOARD MEETING

DATE:            November 20, 2008

TIME:            10:00 a.m.

PLACE:            Board Room, Second Floor, Terminal Building



  1. Board Chairman – Call Meeting to Order
    1. Invocation
    2. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag
    3. Roll Call
  2. Approval of Minutes:
    1. October 28, 2008 – Board Meeting Minutes
  3. Airport Director’s Reports
    1. Activity Report
    2. Financial Report
    3. Airport Relocation Project Report
  4. Business Items:
    1. Banner Tow Agreement – East Moriches
    2. Banner Tow Agreement – Meek’s Aerial Advertising
    3. Updated Retirement Services Agreement
    4. SheltAir Sublease – Flight Deck Aviation
    5. Purchase of Capital Vision Software Application
    6. Award Bid for Utilities Package
    7. Temporary Power to Construction Site
  5. Other Business:
    1. 2009 Board Meeting Schedule
  6. Public Comments:
  7. Adjournment and Meeting Schedule:
    1. Board Meeting December 19, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.