Deutsche Post DHL is expected today to formally transfer ownership of its former U.S. air and ground hub in Wilmington, Ohio, to officials of Clinton County, where Wilmington is located. The transfer is expected to set in motion a long-awaited regulatory process to redevelop the massive facility into a possible airfreight or logistics hub.
The formal transfer, expected to be announced at an afternoon press conference, will put the air park in the hands of the Clinton County Port Authority, a body established in 2004 to facilitate economic development in southwestern Ohio. Port authorities in Ohio can provide low-cost, tax-advantaged funds to finance construction and improvement of private business facilities as a means of job creation.
The complex deal is expected to involve the transfer of the equivalent of 1,600 parcels of land in and around the air park. The facility sits on 2,200 acres and is the largest privately owned airport in the country.
The transfer will free the port authority to seek requests for proposal for the redevelopment of the air park.
"It has been a long process getting to this stage, and this is a major milestone in the [port authority's] effort to attract new business to the area," said David Lotterer, senior associate at Jones Lang LaSalle, the Chicago-based real estate and logistics giant, which is keenly interested in turning the air park into an aircargo or logistics center.
Earlier this year, the state, county, and city solicited so-called "Requests for Information" to explore redevelopment alternatives for the air park. Of the 13 responses received, the three highest-rated came from Jones Lang LaSalle, airport planners Landrum & Brown and Aeroterm, and a four-member consortium that included real estate giant CB Richard Ellis.
The site is within a day's drive of 60 percent of the U.S. population and is located in a city with workers experienced in managing transport operations.
The air park, which originally belonged to the former Airborne Express, was absorbed by DHL when it bought Airborne in 2003. DHL subsequently invested hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the facility before abandoning it in 2009 in favor of nearby Cincinnati. Suffering enormous losses on its U.S. business, DHL ended all domestic U.S. air and ground operations on Jan. 30, 2009, and today only offers international service to and from the United States.
The decisions to shutter domestic service and abandon the air park threw thousands of Wilmington residents out of work. The city has a population of about 12,000.