History of New Century AirCenter:
In 1941, county-owned land located in southwest Johnson County was dedicated to the former Federal Civil Aeronautics Authority for an auxiliary airport. Construction was underway when World War II broke out in December 1941, and the land was sold to the Navy for the construction of the Olathe Naval Air Station. The airbase facilities, built by 4,000 men at a cost of $13 million, served as headquarters for the Naval Air Transport Service, for flight training of Naval Air Cadets and as a Naval Air Technical Training Facility. As a stop over and re-fueling point for naval planes transporting officers, the Olathe Naval Air Station was a permanent home of approximately 1,000 service personnel and accounted for the fifth largest payroll in Greater Kansas City in 1948. Today, the New Century AirCenter has a $1.3 billion-dollar annual economic impact on the Kansas City metro area.
During the late 1960's, the Johnson County Airport Commission was formed as a result of a public perception that there was a need for a county-operated airport in Johnson County. In 1967, the County purchased the Olathe Airport (now Executive Airport) from the City of Olathe for one dollar. In 1970, the United States Navy de-commissioned the Olathe Naval Air Station as an active Navy installation. A study by Midwest Research Institute evaluated and documented the feasibility of development of the airbase facility as a general aviation airport and industrial center. In the fall of 1973, the General Services Administration approved the transfer of 1,744 acres of this surplus property, 59 former naval buildings, a gymnasium and pool to Johnson County. The facility, under the operational control of the Airport Commission, was formally dedicated and renamed the Johnson County Industrial Airport.
Significant investment was made during the early years of the new county-owned facility to prepare itself as a successful airfield/industrial park. While demolition took place to remove some of the aging naval facilities and structures, a handful of small businesses leased space in some of the more functional buildings. In 1975, Howell Mouldings, Inc. a manufacturer of wooden pallets relocated from Kansas City, Kansas to a former aircraft maintenance hangar at Industrial Airport. Today, Howell Mouldings operates at the same location, and has expanded numerous times and employs approximately 150 people.
During the late 1970's the Airport Commission gained more authority in its business attraction efforts with the passage of a Kansas bill which authorized the issuance of revenue bonds for industrial development at Johnson County Industrial Airport. Following this, Olathe Manufacturing announced their relocation from Paola, Kansas to Industrial Airport in 1976, becoming the first company to lease land and construct a new building for industrial use. Since then, 21 businesses have built new facilities using Industrial Revenue Bonds at New Century AirCenter.
Also during mid to late 1970's, efforts were made to upgrade the airport facilities for commercial and general aviation activity. In 1976, a lease agreement with the airports first fixed based operator (FBO) was entered into. In July 1978, the control tower was opened and in April 1979, an instrument landing system (ILS), which was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), began operating at Industrial Airport. Also in 1979, county-owned airplane hangars were constructed at Industrial Airport. Today, the Johnson County Airport Commission owns 90 hangars at New Century AirCenter. There are four full-service Fixed Base Operators (FBO) located at New Century. New Century AirCenter is the third busiest towered airfield in the State of Kansas.
A flurry of economic development activity during the late 1970's and early 1980's included investment by both large and small businesses at Industrial Airport. Paramount among the activity was the 1979 announcement by Sprint North Supply Corporation for its headquarters; a 472,000 square foot office building which was completed in 1982. By 1985, 46 private and public sector businesses employed 2,300 people at Industrial Airport. Today, over 63 resident businesses occupy approximately 3 million square feet of space and employs nearly 5,000 people at New Century AirCenter.
Continued investment in infrastructure by Johnson County has been made to meet the needs of the resident businesses. The County inherited the Navy's self-maintained infrastructure complex that was designed to meet the needs of the Olathe Air Station. Not surprisingly, retrofitting 1940's–era infrastructure has not been without its challenges. During the early to mid-1990's Johnson County Industrial Airport was considered a "sleeping giant" in terms of economic development. The Airport Commission focused on updating and improving vital infrastructure to meet the needs of industry. From rail, air and highway transportation logistics, to voice and data transfer, to reliable electric, water and sewer for high-tech manufacturing processing, resident businesses at the New Century AirCenter benefit from state-of-the-art infrastructure.
The mid-1990's brought the beginnings of a new era for the former Olathe Naval Air Station. Positioning itself as the metro area's premier multimodal business park that will meet the needs of local, national and international business into the next millennium, the Airport Commission re-named the Johnson County Industrial Airport to New Century AirCenter. With a tag line of "You'll Love the Approach," New Century AirCenter has increased its local awareness to new levels. As the growth of Johnson County continues to push to the southwest along Interstate 35, New Century AirCenter is now more than ever a premier business location for both small and large businesses.