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Another View -- Robert Dastin: Airport director's travel unfairly called into question

January 08. 2013 10:21PM

Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that any community would experience a great sense of pride to have one of their own local businesspeople elected to serve in a leadership role for a highly regarded national organization with more than 5,000 members. Elevating awareness of your community and your state on a national level can be invaluable. Unfortunately, a few influential (and vocal) individuals in Manchester appear to feel differently.

Several weeks ago, New Hampshire Sunday News reporter Michael Cousineau hit excessively hard on Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Director Mark Brewer's business travel during 2012. As we all know, business travel is an essential component of most, if not all, executive-level leadership positions; and an airport director is no different than the head of any other corporation, non-profit organization or private enterprise. The front-page headline appeared to imply that there should be a set number of travel days that any airport director should be allowed.

Beyond safety and security, one of the most important responsibilities of any airport director is to maintain and expand airline services for the region in which the particular airport exists. Airports are important economic engines, creating jobs, facilitating commerce and providing access to the global marketplace. Every business trip Mark Brewer has taken was for the implicit purpose of forging important working relationships with airlines, government agencies, financial institutions and other industry entities to encourage and enhance aviation and the development of the airport.

For example, during a May 16-17, 2012, trip to New York City, Mark and his team gave presentations about Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to three bond-rating agencies in association with the refinancing of $85 million in existing airport bonds. Thanks to those efforts, the airport will save approximately $10 million over the 20-year life of these newly refinanced bonds. I think everyone will agree that trip reaped enormous rewards for the airport.

Airline recruitment and retention efforts lead by Mark have also resulted in several recent positive developments. In particular, Southwest Airlines brought back its seasonal non-stop flight to Fort Lauderdale several months earlier this year compared to last, and the airline recently announced the return of daily non-stop service to Las Vegas beginning in June. Delta Air Lines has also significantly increased its investment in Manchester during the past 12-18 months, adding four daily roundtrip flights to New York and increasing frequency to its hub in Atlanta. These enhancements at Manchester come at a time when the airline industry is facing mounting challenges such as high fuel costs, economic uncertainty and system-wide capacity reductions.

The Dec. 9 New Hampshire Sunday News article implies that overseeing the airport was not Mark's priority; but rather the priority lay in his capacity as first vice chairman of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). It is both unfair and inaccurate to assume that he favored one capacity over the other. It is fair to say, however, that his cumulative efforts have benefited our airport and our economy far beyond any city, county or state border.

Important factors that were downplayed in the paper's criticism of Mark Brewer are the fact that the airport's 2012 travel expenses were more than 30 percent under their approved budget, and ALL of Mark's travel was formally approved by Mayor Ted Gatsas in writing. Similarly, both Mayor Frank Guinta and Mayor Gatsas wrote praiseworthy letters in strong support of Mark's participation on the AAAE Executive Committee and his ascension to chairman of the organization during the six-year commitment. We should all be proud of Mark Brewer's accomplishments. As an aviation professional with more than 35 years of knowledge and experience, his leadership and vision are helping guide Manchester-Boston Regional Airport through some very difficult times in the aviation industry. We should support him in his role as airport director and as the next chairman of the American Association of Airport Executives.

Robert Dastin is chairman of the Manchester Airport Authority (MAA). This column was approved by the entire MAA, which consists of Donald Jorgensen, Richard Danais, Marcel Mercier, Dan O'Shaughnessy, Real Pinard and Steve Young.

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