Houston Exports Its Airport Know-How, God Help Us All

Believe it or not, the Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, might actually get finished.

Stunning, right?

You may not have known that there have been ongoing delay problems with the airport. Even more likely, you may be wondering why you should care.

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But it was the opening of this story that caught our eye

Houston Airport System (HAS) announced yesterday that it has secured the required financing to complete the Juan Santamaría (San Jose) international airport from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the world Bank Group.

HAS says the financing packaged will inject us$40 million dollars for the completion of phases one and two of the San Jose airport.

What? That's got to be a different "Houston," right, just like it's a different "San Jose"?

No. It's our Houston. The Houston Airport System has quietly spent the last seven years building or renovating airports around the world.

"They found that they could market their brainpower," says Roxanne Butler of HAS. "They thought it would be a great way to get more revenue for the airport."

It's a somewhat complicated arrangement -- there's a non-profit arm that regularly brings in visitors (China is a regular customer) to watch operations and attend seminar-like briefings. And then there's a second, for-profit arm that does joint ventures with investors to foster the development and operation of airports elsewhere.

Besides Costa Rica, for instance, there's a $655 million airport in Quito, Ecuador.

The Houston Airport System has three very different airports -- the huge Bush, with an Intergalactic customer base (or whatever it is they claim), the smaller Hobby and Ellington, which has a really small commercial operation.

HAS makes most of its money from payments from the airlines that use it; no property-tax dollars are involved.

Still, we didn't think they'd be exporting the Houston way of doing things. Let's just hope it doesn't involve karaoke bars in the terminals.

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