President & CEO, Akron-Canton Airport
The Akron-Canton Airport is poised for big changes, and Rick McQueen is sitting in the pilot’s seat. The airport in Green is nearing the end of one major capital improvement project—the 10-year, $110 million CAK2018 plan that brought with it major changes such as a new terminal, longer runway and expanded security screening area—and is getting ready to embark on an ambitious 20-year Master Plan that comes with even more improvements.
McQueen, president and CEO of the airport and lifetime Stark County resident, is no stranger to change. He joined the airport 32 years ago as an accountant and climbed the ranks. In that time, the airport has gone from welcoming 250,000 passengers in 1982, to about 1.5 million this year, he said.
“There’s nothing that looks the same, from the terminal buildings to the parking lot to the airfield itself—everything has changed in those 32 years, all for the better,” he said.
“It’s been an interesting ride, to say the least,” he added, laughing.
And it’s not slowing down. The airport always is looking forward and trying to stay ahead of the curve, he said.
“Lots of changes. Lots still to come,” he said.
The airport is focused on improving customer experience, he said, but also keeping costs low for airlines and maintaining the airport’s financial stability.
The airport doesn’t accept local tax dollars to operate, he said. And according to a recent economic impact study, it has a half-billion-dollar impact on the seven-county region surrounding the airport. That includes creating about 3,000 jobs both directly and indirectly, he said.
With all of those changes, the airport is trying to make sure things aren’t altered too much. This year, it successfully courted Southwest Airlines to stay at the airport after it purchased AirTran Airways, and even expand services here. That campaign—including the marketing campaign LUVCAK—is something McQueen said he’s very proud of. It brought lots of local organizations, from both Stark and Summit counties, together for a common cause, he said.
“It was fun to see organizations come together,” he said. “I can’t recall another time in my 32 years at the airport where I saw organizations come together to work for the common good of Northeast Ohio.”
McQueen may be at the helm, but the airport’s success isn’t a solo act, he said.
He likened the airport to a house of cards—every card, no matter where it stands, is vital to the house’s staying together.
“It’s great team effort,” he said.
“It really helps make me look good, quite frankly,” he laughed. —Jessica Holbrook