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Another View: Kitchens is the right choice for MHT

August 13. 2018 10:46AM

An American Eagle jet lands at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

AS LOCAL BUSINESS and community leaders chosen by Mayor Joyce Craig to serve on the committee charged with assisting in the search for the next Manchester-Boston Regional Airport director, it is with pride and confidence that we announce our support for the mayor’s nominee, Ted Kitchens.

Kitchens is currently the general manager of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the nation’s 13th largest airport, located in Houston, Texas, and has more than 20 years of experience in large and small airports. Working together with our dedicated airport employees, we believe Kitchens will bring the expertise, ability, and vision to transform the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport into a thriving asset for our city and our region.

An expertly administered and growing airport will play a critical role in the future economic success of our city. Craig led a nationwide search for the next airport director, using the national aviation firm ADK Executive Search and Consulting, who received 29 applications. From there, the field was narrowed to five finalists, and our committee interviewed those applicants, including two current airport employees. As stakeholders who have worked and interacted with the airport for decades, as members of elected bodies and the Airport Authority overseeing airport operations, as business leaders who rely on a strong airport to compete in a global economy, and as consumers, we used our wide-ranging experiences to identify the person we felt best equipped to lead our airport into the future.

Mr. Kitchens rose to the top of the applicant pool because of his nationwide experience, including having served in leadership roles in airports located in Atlanta, Ga., and Newport News, Va., and as an aviation consultant in Massachusetts and Vermont. In his current position, Kitchens manages a $152 million budget at the Houston airport. He has also successfully navigated numerous high-profile events, including Hurricane Harvey in 2016 and the logistical challenges of a Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, and World Series all held in Houston.

While his resume was unmatched by other applicants, the committee was more impressed by his thoughtful and serious assessment of the challenges facing the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and his detailed proposals to improve airport operations. Throughout the extensive interview process, Kitchens demonstrated an ability to think analytically and creatively when discussing his plans for the future of our airport.

Kitchens’ plans to improve our airport come at a critical time. It is no secret that our airport has struggled for over a decade. Passenger traffic at Manchester has declined for 12 consecutive years and 2017 was likely the first time since 2000 that annual passenger service fell below 2 million. In the last few years, we have seen a decrease in flight options, and last month United Airlines announced it will no longer offer service between Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

In many ways, the state of Manchester’s airport reflects the position of our city. We are faced with challenges not uncommon in similarly sized communities, but uniquely positioned to leverage a thriving economy and take our place as a regional and national leader. We are unanimous in our support of Kitchens and are confident that as he begins outreach to local elected officials and business leaders, he will be welcomed warmly by the community. We believe under Kitchens’ leadership, the best days of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport area ahead of us.

Patrick Duffy is the former chair of the Manchester Airport Authority. He writes on behalf of fellow search committee members Liz Hitchcock, Dave Allen, Connie Roy-Czyzowski, and John Farrell.

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