When Hollis Cavner speaks at the Masters Golf Tournament about top flights this week, he's referring to the Anoka County airport, not a brand of golf balls. Augusta, Ga., may be golf heaven, but Cavner's telling everyone, "Blaine's the place to be."
Cavner, tournament director of the 3M Championship at the TPC in Blaine, will be staring at Augusta's fairways this week, but he's also looking down the runway in Blaine.
The groundbreaking for a $35 million refurbishing of the Anoka County-Blaine Airport is scheduled for Tuesday, and the first phase of the airport's facelift is expected to be ready in time to lure corporate jets needing a landing site during the Republican National Convention beginning Sept. 1.
For Cavner, who leads the investors trying to turn Blaine into "a first-class corporate jet center," it's time to tee up his best sales pitch to the corporate elite assembled at golf's most hallowed tournament.
"We have 40 corporate clients here," he said.
"I'm telling all of them-- all the high-end corporations -- to use the airport in Blaine," added Cavner, a partner with Pro Links Sports. "We want Anoka County to be the welcoming point of the Twin Cities."
There are no gimmes in this sales game, Cavner knows. He said corporate executives will be offered fuel deals to induce them to fly into the "reliever" airport in Blaine. There are also promises of a car rental facility with the addition of a new 65,000-square-foot Fixed Base Operation that will cater to business jets and be owned by Key Air, a Connecticut-based industry giant in aircraft management and worldwide executive charters."Some of the most powerful and influential people in our industry are in Augusta this week, and Hollis is selling this airport every day," said Brad Kost, president and CEO of Key Air. Kost, in the Twin Cities on Wednesday, marveled from afar at Cavner's salesmanship.
"Hollis is well known in Augusta," Kost said. "A couple favorable words from Hollis about the airport provides a huge boost."
When completed, the Northwest Building Area of the airport will have more than 250,000 square feet of hangar space. The east-west runway already has been extended from 4,000 to 5,000 feet. Improved safety-enhancing instrument landing and approach lighting systems have been installed.
There is also the possibility of new hotels to accommodate flights into Blaine.
"I'm telling people in Augusta, 'You need to come to us,'" Cavner said. "We want people flying into Blaine County, and we want them spending their money in Anoka County."
Cavner projects the airport expansion will mean 200 jobs. For Curt Larson, Blaine's economic development specialist, it all adds up to a hole-in-one.
Larson sees the airport as "the carrot on the stick, the amenity we can offer to entice companies to locate to the north metro."
Cavner hopes the airport will help drive Anoka County out of the economic rough and into the green.
"The airport will help revitalize the area," he said. "I'm telling people down here to bring their jets to Blaine. You want to fly high, it's the way to go."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419