Airports Seek Alternate Income

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Airports are getting more creative at finding ways to make money, USA Today reported this week. At Houston's Bush International Airport, for example, some empty spaces are being put to work growing high-grade hay to sell to local ranchers. Other airports are developing golf courses, hotels, office parks, and residential developments. In Miami, the county shut down the Opa Locka West GA airfield after it was damaged by hurricanes, and will mine limestone rocks at the site. The quarry is expected to generate $300 million to $600 million, which will go to the aviation department. The advantages are that airport operators can keep costs low and thus more competitive, and also can supplement the sometimes volatile aviation revenues. Paula Hochstetler, an airport consultant, told USA Today that assessing risk will be increasingly important as airport agencies begin to broaden their interests beyond traditional functions. "They have to be deliberate and have good business sense that it doesn't place the airport in jeopardy," Hochstetler said.