City Will Network at Paris Air Show; Who Aviation Authority Delegates Will Join Council President-Elect and Mayor. How Much Taxpayers Ask If $18,000 Price Tag Is Worth Potential Business, Contacts

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the city will spend $18,000 or more to send six people - including the mayor and new City Council president - to the Paris Air Show this month in hopes of drumming up business for the city.

Authority officials have attended the biennial show for years and have generated interest and sometimes even commitments from companies there. To date, though, no major firm appears to have set up shop on the First Coast because of such networking.

But with the economy in rough shape, such trips are vital, Council President-elect Richard Clark said Thursday.

"This is a business trip," Clark said. "In these times, more than ever, we need to recruit businesses to Jacksonville."

Now in its 48th iteration, the Paris Air Show is considered the largest in the world. Designed to let companies show off their wares to both the military and commercial markets, the show attracts around 1,800 exhibitors, including manufacturers, militaries and others from around the world.

"This is a premier gathering of the largest number of aviation, aerospace and defense contractors and business in the world," Aviation Authority spokesman Michael Stewart said.

Networking at past shows led to announcements that Brazilian manufacturer Embraer and Italian company Alenia would set up shop at Cecil Field, the former Navy base on the Westside, Stewart said.

Neither of the companies have actually moved here, though: Embraer's plans were dashed when specs changed on the spy plane it was to build.

More recently, the Pentagon slashed the number of cargo planes it wanted Alenia to build, removing the need for the company to come to Jacksonville.

Still, those going this year said they have a full schedule for their visit, which will be during the first part of the show. The event runs June 15-18 for industry personnel and June 19-21 for the public.

COSTLY BUSINESS TRIP

With the trip not beginning for more than a week from now, the Aviation Authority said it was unable to provide firm figures for the cost of the trip.

But estimates by the authority and the city put the entire price tag in the $15,000 to $22,000 range.

Most of that will be paid by the Aviation Authority, which has two staff members and two board members going. The authority also is discussing picking up half of the tab for Clark, although Stewart said the details haven't yet been worked out.

The mayor's office estimates the trip will cost the city about $3,600, including a $1,446 plane ticket, money Peyton spokeswoman Misty Skipper said would be well spent. …

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