Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Airport re-branding efforts hit snag in 2013


BROOKSVILLE - What's in a name?

Plenty, as it turned out this year. Hernando County government officials began 2013 embroiled in a war of words with the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (HCAA) about renaming Hernando County Airport.

The back-and-forth banter came to an end in March when county commissioners voted unanimously to approve a settlement with Hillsborough that allowed the use of "Tampa Bay" in the re-worked moniker.

So the former Hernando County Airport officially became the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

Hernando officials believed the new regional name better described the airport's location in the Tampa Bay area and would allow economic development staffers to market more effectively the airport and adjacent industrial park.

The settlement came with stipulations, including one that ensures Hernando County "has no intention of offering regularly scheduled passenger service in the future."

Commission Chairman Dave Russell said Hillsborough County officials were worried Hernando County would encroach on the southern county's passenger service.

Russell stressed Hernando County probably is years away from providing passenger service so there was nothing to fear.

"We will not give up future passenger service but what we did indicate is that we don't currently have that service," Russell told Hernando Today when the agreement was signed. "We don't have the infrastructure to provide that nor do we presently have plans to have passenger service."

The agreement also asks that a liaison from Hernando County and the HCAA be appointed to address potential confusion and partnership issues in the future.

For months it appeared there was no chance of reconciliation between the two entities.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority voted to spend up to $400,000 to fight the name change, saying in a lawsuit it would be a "false designation of origin, false advertising, Florida common law trademark infringement and Florida trademark dilution."

Hernando County officials were adamant about re-branding the airport to take advantage of the "Tampa" name to attract out-of-state companies.

Russell said there was much posturing on both sides but that a one-on-one discussion between him and the aviation chairman in February showed there were more benefits to working together.

For example, he said both agreed to support the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority's plan to create a seamless transit service from the Hernando County airport, south on the Suncoast Parkway, to Tampa International Airport.

That would allow air passengers to board a bus in Brooksville and leave their bags and suitcases on the bus when they reached TIA without having to go through an additional check-in process.

Passengers would pick up their luggage when they reach their final travel destination.

Tampa International would benefit because it would recapture some of the business it has lost to Orlando International Airport, according to Russell.

In exchange, the Hillsborough Aviation Authority agreed to funnel potential airport companies looking for airside property to Hernando County.

Being landlocked, TIA cannot always accommodate such airside businesses and there might be potential for them in Hernando County.

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