As small Midwestern farming communities go, Wilmington, Ohio has something its brethren do not - an airport. And not just any old airport. One with runways that can handle large aircraft, up to and including Boeing Co. (NYSE:BAB) 747-300 wide body jet freighters.
Better yet, Wilmington, Ohio is within a 60-mile drive of major metro areas in Ohio including Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus. Open the circle up to 250 miles and you can add major sections of 4 additional states – Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Air Game On
Following a soft rollout in March, Wilmington is now a base of operations for Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZNC) related air cargo operations served by two companies – Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (NASDAQ:AAWWB) and Air Transport Services Group Inc. (NASDAQ:ATSGC).
“We have another air cargo operator at the air park, one that is significant in the air freight industry,” said Daniel Evers, executive director for the Clinton County Port Authority. The port authority owns the air park which was donated to the entity by DHL in 2010, after that company pulled out of town in 2008, taking 7,000 jobs with it.
Supplement Not Replace
Amazon’s stated goal is not to replace its current transportation partners, including FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDXC) and United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE:UPSC). The company says it wants to take more control of its delivery process and simply “supplement” its transportation needs.
According to Amazon senior VP, Dave Clark, Amazon’s own aircraft operations will allow the company to “continue to maintain our fast delivery speeds and lower our costs as our Prime base and our Prime member growth continue to soar.”
A Possible End Game For Amazon
So far, Amazon has leased 40 Boeing jets from Atlas and ATSG. The leasing arrangement calls for 20 planes from each company. According to Amazon 11 planes are already delivering packages for Amazon’s Prime loyalty program members.
As to whether Amazon plans to expand beyond 40 planes, the Seattle Times reported that sources with knowledge of the discussions, told the newspaper Amazon was talking to Boeing about the possibility of buying new 767s for its air-cargo fleet at a later date.
Amazon senior VP, Dave Clark said, “At this moment that’s not something we’re pursuing,” adding, however, “I’d never say never, … Who knows what the future holds?”
And One For Wilmington
Wilmington lost 7,000 jobs in 2008, a move that devastated the small community and surrounding area. Currently, about 1,400 people working for 10 companies have jobs the air park.
How many of the still missing 5,600 jobs can be recovered through Amazon air cargo operations remains to be seen. Clearly, the Clinton County Port Authority would be happy to see Amazon make Wilmington its air cargo headquarters for North America, bringing back as many of those jobs as possible.