PORTLAND — From his office in the original Portland International Jetport terminal, Allyn Caruso has seen a lot of airport growth.
“We used to drag race on the runway, there were so few planes coming and going,” he said May 8.
Caruso, the president of MAC Air Group, expects to be a larger part of the Jetport future after city councilors on May 4 approved what could be a 40-year lease for his company as a fixed-base operator at the Jetport.
The 20-year lease, with a 20-year option, will allow MAC, through its affiliate, Hanger Group, to build a two-story, 13,000-square-foot office and 29,000-square-foot hangar, and store up to 50,000 gallons of fuel on land that was once a part of the Maine Youth Center.
Caruso operates MAC with his wife, Alysan. He has been part of the family business since before it shifted from Bar Harbor to the Jetport in 1959, said he hopes the expansion will be complete by early spring in 2016.
The expansion will make MAC Air Group the second fixed-base operator at the Jetport, joining Northeast Air.
While the company will move out of the former terminal building, which dates to the mid-1930s, it will keep operating its current 18,000 square feet of repair space on Yellowbird Road, near the Fore River.
The $4.35 million expansion will be made on land in South Portland, at Westbrook Street and Aviation Drive. The expansion site plan was approved Tuesday by the South Portland Planning Board.
Jetport Director Paul Bradbury said Wednesday the required state and federal permits have been granted and will just require updating with site plan details.
The Hangar Group will also build a $1.56 million apron to park aircraft that will be turned over for general Jetport use. Adding the fuel and airplane storage aspects will complete the requirements to be a fixed-base operation.
The cost of the apron will be reimbursed to the Hangar Group through 12 years of rental rebates.
“We are building (the apron) because the Jetport doesn’t have the money to do it,” Caruso said.
An April 30 memo by Bradbury estimated the base lease would provide $34,500 in rental income annually. Additional income, based on 2 percent of rental revenues, is estimated at $75,000 for this year.
Drawing a second fixed-base operator to the Jetport has been a goal for the past decade, Bradbury said in a memo to the City Council. MAC was the only company that responded to a request for proposals in January.
Caruso said the expansion will benefit his company in several ways, including consolidation in Portland of operations now at hangars in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont.
Fuel storage is also critical, Caruso said.
“We need to be able to control our fuel prices,” he said, estimating fuel can amount to 35 percent of operating expenses.
More indoor plane storage space will also reduce the need and cost of de-icing planes in the winter, he said.
Expanded hangar space will allow staff to better service and maintain larger fleet aircraft, including former commercial jets the company has chartered to musicians including Carlos Santana, Jon Bon Jovi and Fleetwood Mac.
The expansion could create as many as 15 jobs, Caruso said, including fuelers, technicians, and perhaps office staff. Beyond its sales and charter operations, MAC also maintains and services planes for corporate customers.
While Maine is not a hub of corporate activity, Caruso said his company offers other advantages, including reduced labor costs and hangar fees.
“One of the advantages is we have employees who want to live here,” he said.
The 18,000-square-foot MAC Air Group hangar at Portland International Jetport is used to service fleet and privately owned planes. Company President Allyn Caruso said it will remain in use as the company expands on the South Portland side of the Jetport.
MAC Air Group President Allyn Caruso aboard a former commercial jet now chartered for band tours. A company expansion will create more room to service the planes.