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Lake in the Hills Airport offers incentives to fill vacant hangars

Lake in the Hills is now offering an incentive program to current and prospective tenants in an effrot to fill vacant hangars. (Lawerence Synett/Tribune)

Lake in the Hills is now offering an incentive program to current and prospective tenants in an effrot to fill vacant hangars. (Lawerence Synett/Tribune)

Financial struggles at a far northwest suburban airport have resulted in the creation of an incentive program aimed at filling empty hangars by rewarding current and prospective tenants.

Eleven of the 20 T-Hangars at the Lake in the Hills Airport are vacant. Rentals have been steadily declining since the village-owned airport was at full capacity five years ago, while repair costs for the aging buildings continue to mount.

“At one point there was a waiting list, and when someone would leave, we always had someone else that was interested in renting,” airport manager Manny Gomez said. “When the economy is bad, people are forced to give up things they may not have otherwise.”

Under the incentive program, current lessees referring a new tenant who enters into a yearlong contract will receive a month rental credit in their village account — or $378.59. The new tenant will receive their first three months free, along with a 10-cent per gallon reduction for fuel purchased at the airport.

After the first three months the full monthly rental rate applies. The program does not include the option to end the lease early and runs through August.

Filling one of the vacant hangars through the incentive program would result in a net annual revenue gain of slightly under $3,000, according to Gomez.

“We want to fill these vacancies now,” he said. “We’ve never tried anything like this before. We are at the point now where we have tried to rent them using normal methods, but continue to have the same problems.”

The incentive program also helps the airport compete for tenants with similar facilities around the area, including ones in Schaumburg, DeKalb, Wheeling and Romeoville.

An internal survey of monthly rates at those airports showed prices varying between $240 and $1,500, depending on amenities.

“I wouldn’t say that our prices are the highest, but there are airports that charge less,” Gomez said. “We tried to look at what the competition was offering and balanced that with the type of program we could afford.”

Any additional revenues from the incentive program could help offset repair costs for the T-Hangar buildings, which are in poor physical condition with leaky roofs and rusted metal, among other things. The building floor plans are also open and unsecured besides the gated main entrance area at the airport.

Repair estimates hover around $255,000, which is not available from the village at this time.

“The buildings are really old, but they are not unsound,” Gomez said. “There isn’t a sense of urgency to complete these repairs, but eventually rehabilitation will be needed.”

The airport has projected revenues this year of $389,910 compared to expenditures of $384,490, according to village documents. That is a slight decline compared to revenues from last year, and substantial loss compared to 2010 when the airport brought in more than $678,000.

Fuel costs per gallon at the airport for 100 Low Lead and Jet-A are $4.69 and $4.75, respectively. Prices at similar airports are as low as $4.59 for Low Lead and $4.19 for Jet-A, and are as high as $8.91 for Low Lead and $8.28 for Jet-A, according to the survey.

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