CRESTVIEW — Outgoing Airports Director Greg Donovan wrapped up his Okaloosa County career the way it began: with an address to the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce Airport Committee.
After five years with the county, Donovan's last day was Friday. Monday, he returns to his previous position as director of Pensacola International Airport. County public safety Director Dino Villani will serve as interim airport manager during a search for Donovan's replacement.
Donovan looked forward during this week's remarks, predicting a bright future for Crestview Bob Sikes Airport, saying, "One of the best tools that this community has is that airport."
He praised local and county leadership, including members of the business community, over the past decades for paving the way for current growth at the facility.
"The leadership that has been prevalent in our community going back to Bob Sikes, Foy Shaw and the people (whose photos are) on the walls here, and the decisions we are making now are going to equate to the future of our community," Donovan said.
He credited a combination of county efforts and the commitment of local entrepreneurs such as longtime airport tenant Bob Keller of Sunshine Aero Flight Testing and Jonathan Dunn of Emerald Coast Aviation, the airport's fixed-base operator, for attracting new businesses to Crestview's airport.
"The opportunity to build upon that infrastructure, widen the taxiways, resurface the runways, storm water runoff system, the pre-permitting process, are all opportunities that were not there a few years ago," Donovan said. "It is not all the county's efforts. The entrepreneurial risks your companies have taken have played an integral part."
One major impediment is airport access, Donovan said. Airport staffers are submitting applications for federal and state grants to build Foy Shaw Industrial Parkway, a planned access road from U.S. Highway 90 to the airport, he said.
"The next step is that road," Donovan said. "The efforts of L3, BAE, and all the other companies out there need to be improved upon, and they need that road to open up more opportunities."
Donovan said he believes more cooperation between regional commercial and general aviation airports will benefit the economic growth of all communities in the region.
"Collectively, I think, there is opportunity for us to have some diplomacy between our communities," he said. "Pensacola is a foreign trade zone because of its port. Crestview is not going to have that opportunity. How can we work together? In times past, we have let competition stifle that cooperation."
Donovan thanked attendees for the opportunity to work toward the betterment of Bob Sikes Airport.
"Somewhere down the road, people are going to look back on this town and say, 'There were people who had the leadership to prepare the future of this airport.' If it brings the jobs, it brings prosperity to our families.
"I don't want to necessarily say goodbye. Just consider me to be the first member of the western chapter of the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.