GRAND OPENING: U.S. CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION FACILITY
AT THE FLORIDA KEYS MARATHON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
April 20, 2016, 12:30 PM
9400 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL
MARATHON – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners and The Florida Keys Marathon International Airport invite you to attend the grand opening of the airport’s first U.S. Customs and Border Protection Facility.
For the first time in decades, international flights will be able to clear U.S. Customs in Marathon, ushering in a new era for the small, regional airport. (There was a customs officer on duty to process international arrivals in the 1970s into the mid-1980s, but never before has the airport built a facility specifically for Customs and Border Protection).
“It’s wonderful and has been a long time coming, so obviously I am very pleased to see it get off the ground,” said County Commissioner David Rice, who helped lead the nearly 4-year effort to make the dream of a U.S. Customs facility a reality. “I’m sure what we’ll see is this new customs facility will expose the Middle Keys to a lot of people who pay a lot of money to travel and vacation. It should bring tremendous economic benefits.”
The 4,200-square-foot, state-of-the art facility was completed in February. The federal agency received the keys on March 4 and has spent the past month setting up its IT equipment and connecting to its national network to receive flight plans and other information from international arrivals.
A Florida Department of Transportation grant paid for half of the $1.64 million facility. The other half was paid for with airport funds.
It is a “user-fee” facility, which means the airport pays for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide the federal agents. To offset those costs, the Monroe County-owned airport signed a contract with the private company, Marathon Jet Center, which will be responsible for the approximately $150,000 a year it will cost to staff the facility. The company’s revenue will come from assessing landing/ramp fees for planes arriving from international destinations and selling fuel.
The facility will begin with one customs agent, enabling about 10 to 15 people to be processed per hour. With no commercial service at this time, that capacity now should be sufficient to service the general aviation flights that include corporate jets, private planes and charters. However, the facility was built with the ability to expand and process more passengers per hour, as demand increases.
“We really are anticipating more traffic here for multiple reasons,” said T. J. Henderson, Assistant Director of Airports for Monroe County. “The Middle Keys is growing, with more tourists and residents. Cuba is opening up. And we can offer transient aircraft coming from the Caribbean, Central and South America with a geographically convenient location to smoothly clear customs. We think it will be an attractive alternative to the busier airports in the Miami area.”
The state-of-the-art facility is fully equipped with the latest in security equipment and was designed to meet all of the stringent requirements set forth by Customs and Border Protection.
“It is a very professional and functional facility,” Henderson said. “We worked hard to ensure it will meet the needs of the community for many years to come.”