2017-01-26 / Business News

Airport director happy to land at Naples facility

Florida Weekly Correspondent

ROZANSKY ROZANSKY Christopher Rozansky had been fascinated by aviation since his childhood in New Jersey where he regularly heard the roar of the airborne jets based at nearby McGuire Air Force Base.

Becoming a commercial airline pilot was his original career goal, but the journey to that objective took a detour that led him to a career in airport management and his current position as executive director of Naples Municipal Airport and the city’s airport authority.

“Once I had some exposure to the airport management side of things, I really gained an appreciation for that career path,” said Mr. Rozansky, who has held the post since March 2016.

As the airport authority’s executive director, he manages one of the nation’s busiest general aviation airports, with a roughly $20 million annual budget, more than 75 employees and an annual economic impact of $283.5 million in Collier County.

This aerial photo of Naples Municipal Airport shows Airport-Pulling Road running across the bottom of the image. This aerial photo of Naples Municipal Airport shows Airport-Pulling Road running across the bottom of the image. Mr. Rozansky began pursuing his passion for aviation at age 13 when he joined the Civil Air Patrol, which he continued through high school. Next was college at Clarkson University in Upstate New York, where he majored in engineering, participated in the Air Force ROTC program and received some flying instruction.

It was one of his flight instructors who suggested he check out an internship opportunity in administration at the local airport, which he received.

After two years at Clarkson, he returned to New Jersey and took flight instruction classes at a community college and served as an intern Trenton- Mercer Airport. That internship led to a job in Philadelphia International Airport’s operations department. While there, he received in-depth exposure to the myriad tasks involved in running a major airport and met a co-worker who played a major role in his future.

The recent Ohio State University graduate “was a really fun, committed professional and he just wouldn’t stop talking about the Buckeyes,” said Mr. Rozansky. “So I said I’ve got to go check this school out.”

So it was off to Ohio State where he earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management while working for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, which operates three airports. After graduation in 2003, he took a job in the operations department of McKinney National Airport near Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Rozansky credits the McKinney airport’s manager with fostering his “soft skills;” building relationships with elected officials, community leaders and people who live near the airports. During his eight years there, he took part in planning and noise studies.

“That really helped me gain an appreciation for the role of an airport in the community and to realize how important it is that we have neighbors,” he said.

Those “soft skills” and his other experiences at McKinney proved useful when he became director of Sarasota County’s Venice Municipal Airport.

“I knew it was going to be a challenging job because of, similar to Naples, how close-in the residential development is around the airport,” he said. “But it was also a great opportunity because the airport really needed a lot of work to bring it up to current standards for airport design. Over five years, we were successful in working with the community, but also in making more than $25 million in improvements to the facility.”

When the position in Naples opened up, he saw it as an opportunity to again employ the skills he’d accumulated over the last 17 years, particularly where utilizing “soft skills” and implementing facilities improvements are concerned.

While the airport has spent more than $7.6 million on noise abatement since 2000, it remains a focus because the busy facility is surrounded residential development.

“This airport has done so much over the last 20 years to implement restrictions to reduce noise, there really are no new restrictions to achieve,” Mr. Rozansky said.

Flight path changes are impractical because of the encircling homes. Instituting higher take-off altitudes is under consideration, but the need to maintain safe distances between the multitude of jets and planes utilizing the airport makes that difficult.

“So it’s a very challenging and complex issue, but I do believe my experience in working with communities around airports is going to help me work with the communities here and the FAA to try and strike an appropriate balance.”

Interview with Christopher Rozansky

Business mentors: Unquestionably, my father. He was a small business owner and taught me the value of hard work and the integrity of a man’s word. Also Ken Wiegand, executive director for the McKinney National Airport in McKinney, Texas, who I worked under for nearly eight years. He taught me a great deal about how to navigate the intricacies of local, state and federal government and never to accept the status quo.

First job: With the family business on a pig farm in New Jersey. When I was 15, Dad recommended I work outside the family, so I found employment at a fruit and vegetable stand. First day on the job — and as a test, I suppose — I was asked to dig a foundation for that family’s new pool. I worked there for a couple of years and always knew where to find great Jersey tomatoes and corn thereafter.

Business words of wisdom: In negotiations, remain firm on your core principles, yet strive for compromise that provides all sides a victory to celebrate.

Favorite business book: “The Leadership Pipeline.” Developing the next generation of managers and executives is a top priority for me. Just as I had a lot of help and instruction along the way, it’s important that we invest in leadership for our organization and the aviation industry.

Two things you look for when hiring: Cultural fit first, then technical competency.

Any job openings? Only one at the moment, for a maintenance worker. ¦

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