Director of Administration and Finance Michelle Swanson is part of the management team of the Salina Airport Authority (SAA) which operates the Salina Regional Airport and the Salina Airport Industrial Center. The SAA is a powerful economic engine to the Salina and central Kansas economy providing commercial air service, a world class business jet refueling stop, and an industrial campus of over 100 businesses employing over 4,000 people.
After the Department of Defense closed Schilling Air Force Base in June 1965, over 5,000 servicemen and their families left Salina. In that bleak backdrop, the City of Salina turned what could have been a crushing economic blow into the gold standard for governmental, educational, and industrial partnership.
Out of the ashes of the base closing, emerged the Salina Airport Authority (SAA), which converted the former Strategic Air Command Base into the Salina Regional Airport and Salina Airport Industrial Center. Its mission is to create jobs and payroll to help sustain the economy of Salina, Saline County and north central Kansas. As the SAA observes its golden anniversary, Director of Administration and Finance Michelle Swanson describes the economic impact which has resulted from its creation.
“We manage nearly 3,000 acres of land and almost a million square feet of property,” Swanson said, and the economic impact from that is very significant.”
Over 100 businesses currently call the Salina Airport Industrial Center home, employing almost 4,000 people with an annual payroll of over $140 million dollars. The SAA also has a unique partnership with one of its larger tenants, Kansas State University-Salina.
“They have an airport management program, so we’re fortunate to partner with them,” said Swanson. “You’ll often see airport management interns on the airport, helping all aspects of running the airport and industrial center.”
With its location in the heart of America, the Salina Regional Airport is a popular refueling stop for private and corporate aircraft. Swanson said the airport’s world class fixed base operator, Avflight Salina, welcomes nearly 7,000 business aviation aircraft to its runways each year.
SAA employs 13 full-time and 4 part-time staff who are charged with managing and maintaining the airfield and industrial buildings, along with providing security and aircraft rescue and firefighting services for the airport and industrial center.
Nex-Tech began providing phone service and business phone system management services to the SAA over a decade ago.
“As technology has changed, and the need for the airport to stay up to date with technology, we’ve gradually been using Nex-Tech for more services because we manage so much property,” said Swanson. “Many of our hangar facilities and manufacturing facilities require a fire suppression system that has to be monitored, so Nex-Tech provides the phone lines for those fire alarms,” she added.
More recently, Nex-Tech began providing the organization its Technology As A Service program (TAAS). “We’re not large enough to have our own I.T. staff, so Nex-Tech is serving as our contract I.T. staff,” Swanson said.
“We had a situation where our server was failing and we didn’t have the capital budget to replace it,” Swanson explained. “Jim Olmsted, our
Nex-Tech Account Representative, introduced their TAAS program to us. So now for an economical monthly rate, our data server is provided, and that comes with the service, so I don’t have to worry about restarting the server every night or performing any maintenance checks on it.”
Another service that Swanson said is critical to the SAA operation is the Nex-Tech Total Backup and disaster recovery program.
The Salina Regional Airport was the home base for the late Steve Fossett’s historic nonstop flight around the world in 2005.
Nex-Tech Account Representative Jim Olmsted works closely with the SAA in delivering critical communication and data services to the 3,000 acre business complex.
“Because we have to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations and the airport doesn’t close—if we have a situation where something were to happen to the terminal building, we have to be able to serve as incident command somewhere on the airfield or another location,” said Swanson. “With the offsite backup, it would be very easy for us to acquire additional equipment, and then be able to retrieve the backup from the location out of Victoria.”
Swanson also likes the responsiveness Nex-Tech provides, and the fact that they’re a local company aligns with the mission of the SAA in growing the area economy.
Along with being a local company, Olmsted pointed out that Nex-Tech is able to provide the airport authority a broad range of technology services. “We have good staff here in Salina,”
Olmsted said. “We have seven technicians that are able to provide high level service including phone systems, cabling, security cameras, even certified tower climbing technicians,” he added.
When asked to rate Nex-Tech’s level of expertise, Swanson didn’t hesitate. “Outstanding,” she said.
“One of the things the airport authority has really benefited from is the multi-discipline aspect of Nex-Tech,” said Swanson. “When we have larger projects, Jim is very good about bringing together the team members from Nex-Tech that have those areas of expertise, to sit down with our facility managers and planners, and put together a package that not only will work for us, but will come in under budget and meet our financial plan that we have in place.”