Aerospace giants like Airbus, Boeing's participation key to Homestead air show success
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Convincing Boeing, Northrop Grumman and other aerospace industry giants to attend an international aviation show in Miami is key to putting the event on par with shows like the one at Farnborough outside of London and Le Bourget held biennially outside of Paris.
The aim is "to create in Miami the equivalent, for the Western Hemisphere, of one of the major hemispheric air shows," said Jean-Michel Caffin, managing partner at Axis Americas and chair of the Beacon Council's aviation committee. "There are two in Europe, one in the Middle East and one in Shanghai."
Miami-Dade commissioners this month agreed to set aside 54 acres adjacent to Homestead Air Reserve Base as the show's site and $15 million for infrastructure needed to improve the area, such as access roads and power and water outlets.
The five-day event, to be held every even-numbered year so as not to conflict with the Paris Air Show, is to be a commercial trade show that could attract 200,000 attendees, house more than 800 exhibits and generate up to $100 million in hotel reservations, day pass sales and parking, Beacon Council President Frank Nero said.
The agency, the county's official economic development arm, is leading the effort and has the Paris Air Show Chairman Louis Le Portz consulting.
It has the tentative support of local government, and the Beacon Council is out pitching the event to industry groups as well as potential exhibitors and attendees.
"We have already begun talking with the industry associations, the Aerospace Industry Association and we've met with the General Aviation Maintenance Association," said James Kohnstamm, Beacon Council director of expansion, retention, recruitment and urban initiatives. Those are "good places to start and we have made some overtures to some of the [large equipment manufacturers] and we're going to be ramping that up over the coming months."
Organizers will also have to work with elements of the military, which is likely to participate in many aspects of the show.
"The actual airfield at Homestead Air Reserve Base is an area we would like to have access to. We don't need access to other parts of the base," Mr. Kohnstamm said. "To be able to land aircraft and use the airfield will require a partnership of some kind with the Air Force and the Department of Defense."
As the Beacon Council works with the military and the South Florida congressional delegation to get the nod from Washington, it also wants the Defense Department to be an exhibitor.
The Department of State may also play a role due to its international nature and the fact that oftentimes billions worth of goods are ordered at such events.
"We want to make sure we work through the legalities of, let's say, a Brazilian company selling a jet to the Japanese on American soil," Mr. Kohnstamm said. "Of course there are import-export issues, Department of Commerce, maybe Department of State issues we will have to work through."
Along with the very large aerospace and aviation companies, the show targets hundreds of thousands of professionals from the across industry and is beginning to launch a global effort to reach out to them.
This is "an industrial trade show where you have the manufacturers, the users, the operators and everyone that gravitates around the [aviation] industry and the space industry," said Mr. Caffin of Axis Americas.
In addition to the $15 million for infrastructure improvements at the proposed site, the Beacon Council requested the commission set aside $250,000 for marketing.
The remainder of the budget includes $100,000 for consultants, $30,000 for sales missions and promotions at competing air shows, $10,000 for sales missions to targeted aviation companies, $5,000 for a Washington, DC, fly-in to sort out more show details and a final $100,000 for the show's inauguration at the next Paris Air Show.
The $250,000 "is for the initial marketing, to develop a brand strategy, create a website and do some of those basic things that we need for the marketing campaign," Mr. Kohnstamm of the Beacon Council said. For "greater marketing to the industry we're seeking additional funding."
The agency has applied for a $400,000 federal Economic Development Administration grant to cover some marketing as well as final infrastructure study that will reveal if the $15 million the county set aside is enough to bring the site's infrastructure up to par.
It may also partner with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau to promote the show and roll it into its Where Worlds Meet campaign that promotes Miami globally.
But with a long to-do list and seemingly few items checked off, everything is on a tight timeline to ensure the show's success just two years away.
The team "began working on it a year ago," Mr. Caffin said. "We set ourselves a target of 2012 for a number of reasons. This year was Farnborough. Next year, June 2011, will be the Paris Air Show, and in 2012 Farnborough might not be on because you have the Olympics [in London], so there's a window of opportunity."
The first show needs to be a blockbuster to set a precedent for future years, he added, and the Beacon Council needs to secure major companies' participation, and soon.
This "show needs to be sizable from the get-go. We cannot start at a fraction of the size because then people will be disappointed by first event and might not come back," Mr. Caffin said. "We have… to do this fairly rapidly. These [companies] budget for a number of years, but with Farnborough not taking place then there will be some budget available."