CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The year of 2020 brought an end to a streak of record travelers passing through Gerald R Ford International Airport; but while the concourse was much emptier than usual, the airport's leaders say there were many bright points throughout the year.
In the 2020 Community Report released on May 5, President and CEO Tory Richardson along with Board Chair Dan Koorndyk say Ford Airport became an important hub to transport personal protection equipment staring on April 10, 2020.
Then on December 13, the first shipments of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine flew out of Ford. Video of the doses being loaded into a FedEx plane was transmitted across the world.
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However, the year nearly brought passenger flights to a halt, with the number of travelers cratering by 96-percent in April 2020. By the end of the year about half of the usual travelers went through the airport during the holidays. Richardson and Koorndyk say the numbers are continuing to trend in the right direction.
To help restore the public's confidence in the safety of the airport during the pandemic, Ford Airport became the first airport in the U.S. to use an autonomous robot to disinfect surfaces in the terminals with U.V. light. The airport also unveiled a new campaign, "Fly Safe, Fly Ford," which Richardson and Koorndyk credit with raising awareness about the airport's safety measures.
2020 was also a year of growth, with Ford Airport breaking ground on a new federal inspection station. Once completed the new addition will allow for non-stop international flights. The $30 million project is paid for through federal and state grants, along with bonds issued by the airport.
Phase 2 of the Gateway Project finished in 2020. The work provided a face-lift to the main terminal, consolidating the TSA screening area, reworking baggage claim, and adding new storefronts. Ford Airport also debuted new artwork featuring a sculpture of the late Gerald Ford, welcoming travelers to West Michigan.
In 2021 and beyond, Ford Airport says it wants to develop more than 900 acres of available land it owns, providing space for medical, automotive, and other industries that could provide shorter transportation times by being near the airport.