NEWSMAKER: Clark lands jobs as airport CEO

December 26, 2009

In April, it was the best of times—and worst of times—for John D. Clark III to take the job as CEO of the Indianapolis Airport Authority.

On one hand, Clark stepped up to a larger airport—from a similar position at Jacksonville International Airport. And the digs here aren’t bad, either—a new, $1.1 billion passenger terminal.

John Clark

At the same time, Clark arrived as airport bean counters figured revenue was expected to fall $15 million below projections. Amid a recession, passenger traffic dived 10 percent and cargo volume 16 percent.

The airport also faces in 2010 negotiating new agreements with airlines. They were asked to pay more during better times for the new terminal and its $40 million-a-year mortgage.

To make rents and landing fees palatable, Clark needs to hold the line on airport costs. Even some of the authority’s top executives were sacrificed this year, including the heads of retail and parking.

Clark also wants to grow airport revenue.

“My hope is that we will begin to look at ways to put some other types of development in place so we’re not as dependent on people flying in and out,” Clark told IBJ in August.

Look for example, at cargo and logistics, he says, pointing to multiple interstate connections and FedEx’s No. 2 U.S. hub at the airport. “We need to begin to look at how to diversify our revenues.”

Clark has plenty of best practices to draw from. He was named chairman of the North American division of Airports Council International, the trade group for big airports.

Tens of thousands of dollars he spent on trips to ACI events around the world while working in Jacksonville fueled criticism of Clark in that city’s alternative newspaper, Folioweekly. The Indianapolis Airport Authority board dismissed those reports, saying Clark has high marks in the industry.

Clark’s predecessor, John Kish, left to head a municipal stadium project in Evansville.•



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