An initial bid to bring Seattle-based online retail giant Amazon’s Prime Air to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport may have nose-dived.
But airport and local officials said they are optimistic about landing the air cargo jet service in the future.
“We are not at all discouraged about our ability to continue to move forward and potentially bring that business to GSP and the Upstate,” said Dave Edwards, president and CEO of GSP. “We’re disappointed because we thought we had put together a good proposal… We’re keeping the dialogue [with Amazon] open.”
Edwards said the airport was contacted earlier this year by ABX Air, a subsidiary of one of Amazon’s airfreight partners, Air Transport Services Group, about the possibility of bringing Air Prime to GSP.
He said the company wanted to know if GSP could handle the Boeing 767 jets Amazon is using for the operation, which it is using to deliver its goods to customers across the country.
ABX officials said the operation would also require 50 to 60,000 square feet of warehouse space at the airport to unload, load and store goods.
Edwards said GSP officials put together a proposal confirming the airport could accommodate the jets, but did not have a warehouse facility available. The airport’s proposal was for a temporary structure that Amazon could use until a permanent facility could be constructed.
“We thought we had something in place that would work for them,” Edwards said. “We pulled together all of those estimates and gave it to them on a Friday. By Monday they had decided there were going to be operational and logistical challenges.”
He said the company decided to operate the service out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
An Amazon official could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
According to the company’s website, Amazon operates two fulfillment centers in South Carolina in Spartanburg and Lexington counties, as well as a warehouse in North Charleston. It operates only one facility in North Carolina—a distribution center in Concord.
“We’re much closer than Charlotte is [to its fulfillment centers in South Carolina],” Edwards said. “It would benefit them more to be this close… I have no question that if we had the available aircraft apron adjacent to a warehouse, Prime Air would be flying out of there.”
GSP is nearing completion of its $125 main terminal renovation nicknamed Project WINGSPAN.
On Tuesday, the airport unveiled the brand identity of its new self-run fixed-base operator (FBO) Cerulean Airlines, which is set to kick off in early 2017. The FBO will include upgrades and additions to the airport’s existing facilities.
In early November, Senator Airlines will launch its new international air cargo service at GSP.
BMW and several other companies across the Upstate utilize the airport to ship cargo. As of March, GSP’s air cargo traffic had increased more than 18 percent to 2,832 tons, compared with 2,391 tons during the same month of 2015.
Edwards said airport officials could evaluate GSP’s ability to deliver a facility for Amazon Prime Air as part of its five-year capital program.
“In our minds, there’s no question that once we’re able to roll out Cerulean and complete many other projects, it will give us the ability to continue to grow and support businesses that operate here in the Upstate,” Edwards said. “We’re going to make sure we’re doing everything we can in order to help the community grow.”
Edwards said the airport has always taken a “conservative” approach to development by building facilities when there’s a need for them.
“GSP is in Spartanburg County and anything we can do to offer companies that are here a way to improve, expand or solidify their business, which only digs their roots deeper, we’re going to do,” said Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt. “Amazon has been a tremendous asset to Spartanburg County and the state. They have employed a lot of people. We want to do everything we can to assist them. GSP is a big partner in the success we’ve had. And we’re going to support them too.”
For more information, visit www.gspairport.com.