Airport reports profit

Published 1:39 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Heliport Cafe is seeing more people come and patronize, which is helping with the bottom line.  Photo courtesy of SARA.

The Heliport Cafe is seeing more people come and patronize, which is helping with the bottom line.
Photo courtesy of SARA.

Co-director: 1st time in his 14 years at SARA

In the 14 years, South Alabama Regional Airport Co-Director Jed Blackwell has worked at the airport, there has never been a surplus of funds.

The May financials he presented at Tuesday’s airport board meeting, he was finally able to report a $7,987 profit.

“Our depreciation and amortization was over $76,000 last month (that is standard),” he said. “When you factor that in and still show a profit, it is a great credit to the airport team as a whole.”

The airport team has made some changes in order to report a profit, he said.

The Heliport Café is the primary contributing factor for the revenue increase, Blackwell said.

“We have increased our food menu and quality of food,” he said. “Our food menu now consists of Southern cooking choices to include fried chicken, barbecue ribs, fried catfish, hamburger steak, barbecue pork chops, home cut fries, homemade chicken casserole, turnips, butterbeans and fried cornbread among others.”

For healthier eaters, Blackwell said there is a full salad and fruit bar.

These wares can be found at the Heliport Café Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.

“One of our specialties is homemade chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies. They seem to go over really well with our customers.”

Blackwell said the goal is to simply provide military men and women with quality food at a quality price.

“When we are driving a car, we want to go to the best place that we can and enjoy our meal,” he said. “At our airport, we want to provide that best place that we can for our soldiers. We strive to be the best on the ground for the best in the air.”

Average café daily gross profits have increase from $288.63 in March to $322.16 in May.

Blackwell said they have increased from around 100 people coming in to 250 coming through the doors.

Another thing Blackwell attributes the profit to is the quality of staff.

“Our kitchen and customer service staff do a great job and are one of the primary reasons for this increase,” he said. “Those full-time employees include Juanita Stewart, Jasmine Atkins, Debbie Grantham, Danielle Calhoun, Chelsea Henderson and Ashlynn Poole. We also have two summer hire students who are in high school and college. They are Samantha Stamnes and Haley Harris. We also can’t forget our team members who put fuel in the helicopters and airplanes. They include Lee Reaves, Carlos Luckie Sr., Justin Thompson, Earl Chaffin, Dave Harper, Jarrett Bryan, Warren Brown and Justin Ballard.”

Another contributing factor is refinancing of the debt that was mutually agreed upon by the city of Andalusia and Opp and the county last August, which satisfied $12 million in debt from two 2006 bonds, a PNC bank loan and a loan from Covington Electric Cooperative.

“This also is a contributing factor as it reduced the overall debt of the airport and lowered the interest rate significantly on the payback of the bonds,” Blackwell said.

“The success of our airport is a team effort,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to the four member board of directors along with Mayors John Bartholomew, Earl Johnson and Bill Godwin.”

Andalusia’s John Givhan spoke at Tuesday’s meeting praising the staff and the café.

Givhan said he has been coming to the airport and heliport since 1995.

He recalled using the heliport to write his book “Rice and Cotton: South Vietnam and South Alabama.”

He said from his casual viewpoint, the airport was in better shape than he’s ever seen it.

He said he spends a good amount of time at the Heliport Café and has been busy spreading the word about the restaurant.