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Sterilizer Helps Boost Austin Straubel's Business

By Nathan Phelps
The Green Bay (WI) Press Gazette
Sunday, November 9, 2009

GREEN BAY — The steel and blue San-i-Pak autoclave in the benign-looking metal building at Austin Straubel International Airport could be a key component in the future of the facility.

The equipment allows fixed-base operators at the airport to sterilize trash coming in on flights — or ships — from other countries. That, in turn, makes Austin Straubel a potential stopping-off point for international air traffic entering the country.

"It helps us with our fuel sales," said Mark Jaraczewski, general manager of Executive Air, one of two fixed-base operators at the airport offering general aviation services and maintenance.

"We make a little bit of money off the sterilizer, but it's really the fuel sales that we're after. Fuel is what drives our business," he said.

For businesses at the airport, such as Executive Air, and airport management, the sterilizer is seen as a building block to bolstering international business and a tool for heading off the spread of harmful foreign "bugs" into the country.

"We look at it as the first step in expanding the U.S. Customs Port of Entry status that Green Bay enjoys along with Milwaukee," said airport director Tom Miller. "Now that the sterilizer system is up and running, and the word is starting to get out, we would hope at some point to be able to build a federal inspection station where customs could ... clear commercial passenger airplanes."

Miller said the autoclave cost about $150,000. Fees were collected from customers using the service through Titletown Jet Centre, Executive Air and the airport.

Federal law requires aircraft departing from certain countries to dispose of their onboard garbage upon arrival into the United States. The sterilization takes about an hour, including the time it takes the sterilizer to heat up to about 300 degrees. It maintains that heat for 30 minutes to completely kill bacteria.

The combination of U.S. Department of Agriculture certified trash disposal, customs, and fuel vendors is being promoted as a key reason for fliers to consider stopping in Green Bay.

"They can drop in here, do their business, and fly on to whatever their ultimate destination may be in the heartland of the country," Miller said.

Titletown Jet Centre has expended the sterilization and disposal service they offer to include trash from international ships using the ports of Green Bay, Marinette and Menominee, Mich. It also is certified to handle trash in Michigan and is handling trash that comes to Volk Field with troops returning by air from duty in the Persian Gulf.

"Any business that can diversify helps itself during lean times," said Al Timmerman, one of the owners of Titletown. "If aircraft usage is down, picking up trash from the port is going to help."

It took about a year for Titletown to gain government approval to do business off site, and it is regulated in how the trash is to be transported and what routes it can take, avoiding as much agricultural land as possible.

Green Bay is on the "Great Circle" route for traffic from Europe that passes over the north pole, he said. Fuels sales and catering are among areas of the business that can benefit from the equipment and an uptick in international business.

"We're hoping (the sterilizer) attracts international flights here because we have 24-hour (U.S.) Customs and we can also handle the trash," said Timmerman. "What someone coming into the United States is looking for is ... landing, getting quick fuel, getting rid of your trash, clearing customs and then going anywhere you want.

"It helps expand our business."The airport, and both fixed base operators, say they are actively promoting the service to the aviation community.

"It gives them another opportunity to stop into Green Bay instead of going to Milwaukee," Jaraczewski said. "It's going to help in the long run. It just started, so we're trying to market it and get it out there."

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