Colorado Public Works Journal, Winter 2023

WINTER 2023┃45 Industry Insights feature by Sean O’Keefe As the culmination of a lifelong fascination with flight, Director of Aviation, Greg Phillips took the reins at the Colorado Springs Airport (COS) in January 2017. For the first edition of Industry Insights in 2023, the Colorado Public Works Journal asked Greg to check in for a chat about the state of civil aviation in Colorado Springs, a city on the rise. “Once it gets into you, aviation never let’s go,” says Phillips, who grew up under the wing of a military aviator and then enrolled at West Point, where he learned to fly as well. After eight years in the Army, Phillips went to work for Boeing, then the FAA, where he managed improvements at airports across Oregon for many years. Phillips oversaw an estimated $800 million of FFA-related construction at Denver International Airport (DEN) as a deputy program manager. Today, as the Director of Aviation at Colorado Springs Airport (COS), Phillips is deeply engaged in managing the many details of a multi-pronged economic engine and transportation hub. A key influence for all of southeastern Colorado, COS is noteworthy for being home to U.S. military partners at NORAD and Peterson Space Force Base, as well as a U.S. Forest Service aerial firefighting tanker base. The Peak Innovation Park is a 900-acre, non-aero business park that is now home to Flywheel Capital, Aerospace Corporation, and soon a Residence by Marriott. Prominent among global names, Amazon has established a three-building complex that includes a sorting facility, a distribution facility, and a five-story, 3.7 million-sq-ft fulfillment center, the largest building in Colorado. “We just completed a 20-year master plan and in that, we see upcoming improvements to parking, potential development of a Consolidated Rental Car Facility, and some upgrades to the taxiway system on the airfield,” says Phillips of the visible horizon. “We are in design on taxiway alpha, which parallels the west runway. That’s a big one because it’s not just rehabilitation. We are widening the distance between the taxiway and the runway.” Planned improvements continue inside, at what Phillips expects to be a controlled pace. “We will upgrade the concourse and start to transition to common use at the gates. This will allow us to forestall the need for a gate expansion program for many years,” says Phillips of managing a conscientious cycle of revenue generation, growth, and daily operations. As a city, Colorado Springs seems to be on the verge, poised for population growth and lifestyle enhancements. “We’ll keep our eyes open for trigger opportunities. Currently, the final foreseeable build-out would increase the airport from 12 to 24 gates, when the time is right. Readers can review the entire master plan on our website.” Asked about what the design and construction industry should know about doing business with COS, Phillips is sincere. “I welcome firms to get to know us. Schedule a visit, learn about the airport, and keep in touch,” he says. “Relationships are the basis of success in what we design and build. It’s best if those are established before a project is in the solicitation phase.” As an indicator of growth, Phillips points to the recent addition of dedicated COS service by Southwest, which began in 2021 and now represents approximately 50 percent of all passenger counts. “Our enplanements are the highest we have seen since 2000. So, the last few years have been great for COS and Colorado Springs as a whole,” he concludes. With growing enplanements, improving facilities, and the huge opportunities in the Peak Innovation Park all synchronizing, Phillips finds himself faced with an ever-more-engaged public. “We try to keep our ear to the ground where the community is concerned. We communicate frequently on social media and genuinely consider the comments people make. We are adding service to Minneapolis next summer through Delta and Sun Country. So, when people say why don’t you add a route here or there, we have to say if you want the airport to grow, use it more.” The hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. The recently completed 17 Right 35 Left Runway Rehabilitation received an award from the Colorado/ Wyoming Asphalt Concrete Paving Association and the Peak Innovation Park received an economic partnership award in 2020. Of recent accomplishments, Phillips is most proud of COS being named one of Colorado Springs’ Best Places to Work for the last two years in a row. “The airport is a for-profit business that is here to serve the community. Our workforce understands that what we do every day makes a huge difference in people’s travel experience and in regional prosperity,” he finishes. “COS is a gateway to our community, and one that we can all be very proud of.” “Relationships are the basis of success in what we design and build.” Greg Phillips - D irector of Aviation Colorado Springs Airport (COS)