Lowcountry Aviation – “We make them, we fly them and we maintain them”
by The Press and Standard | May 3, 2018 7:00 am
Last Updated: May 2, 2018 at 1:39 pm
Marco Cavazzoni envisions Lowcountry Aviation Co. becoming an aviation one-stop shop.
“Our motto is we make them, we fly them and we maintain them,” says Cavazzoni, the president of the newest company to call the Lowcountry Regional Airport home.
Last week, the South Carolina Department of Commerce announced the fully-integrated aviation service provider was launching operations.
The next day, concrete was poured at the airport facility to establish the pad and foundation for a large, new aircraft hanger. The hanger construction is part of the company’s $1.7 million investment in setting up operations.
In the early stages of setting up the business, Lowcountry Aviation Co. has been working out of one hanger.
The new hanger, which should be going up as soon as the concrete is cured, will be the first of three new hangers to be part of Cavazzoni’s operations.
“It has been a lot of work to get to this point, a lot more work coming up,” Cavazzoni said. “We are in a good spot right now, we are starting to pick up speed.”
Lowcountry Aviation Co. is the parent company for three businesses that will call the Lowcountry Regional Airport home.
There’s Lowcountry Aviation Co. MRO (maintenance repair and overhaul. That piece of the plan will be the “we maintain them” portion of the company’s motto.
Then comes Austin Aviation for the motto’s “we fly them” portion. Austin Aviation is a charter company.
The “we make them” part of the motto comes from Sky Arrow, a European-based airplane manufacturer that is working with Cavazzoni to establish a presence in the United States. Cavazzoni said the plan is to have the Walterboro-based assembly operation serve America’s market.
He envisions the Sky Arrow selling aircraft from Canada to Chile. “Our first plane should be produced by the end of the year.”
“All three (businesses) are up and running,” Cavazzoni said.
The company currently has 10 contract workers who will soon become permanent employees. business’s first employment target is 36 new jobs. But, Cavazzoni adds, “as the company grows, we will have more and more.”
But those new employees will not be hired until the company’s infrastructure work is done. “We are not really ready to increase employment until the hangers are up. That is when we start ramping up.”
Cavazzoni said that “since the announcement we have had a lot of queries, but it has been kind of premature.”
When it is time to start hiring, he adds, he is going to work with community partners to put together “an integrated plan to attract the best and brightest.”
Cavazzoni remembers the date he arrived in the Lowcountry. “It seems like a long time ago, Oct. 31, 2009 was when I first landed here with my family.”
Cavazzoni, a Boeing executive, had been sent to South Carolina to work on establishing Boeing’s North Charleston manufacturing facility.
It was in that start-up effort that he and Colleton County Economic Development Director Heyward Horton met. Back then Horton was with the Charleston County development organization and working on the economic development initiative that landed Boeing.
“Horton was a big part of that, it is great to be able to work with him again,” Cavazzoni said.
While finishing up his time with Boeing, Cavazzoni was pondering establishing his own company. “It is the type of thing that percolates in your mind for a number of years.” He envisioned starting a family business.
After envisioning “a small business with great capability and versatility,” Cavazzoni said the next question was “where do you want to do it.”
“Three elements are associated with that-infrastructure, people and community,” he said.
“The first one is infrastructure, you look to find somewhere where it makes sense to do the work,” Cavazzoni explained. It had to be an airport with runways long enough for the type of airplanes we want to cater to.”
He liked what he saw at Lowcountry Regional Airport. “Although our airport has been underutilized; it has great infrastructure, great bones.” The runways have good length and there is a lot of space.
Cavazzoni said he likens the potential he saw at Lowcountry Regional Airport to “a white canvas.” Facing a blank canvas, he suggests, “can either scare you or start you drawing a wonderful picture.”
In addition to the good bones of the airport, Cavazzoni said Walterboro infrastructure pluses included its location on the I-95 corridor, its close proximity to urban areas, schools and a hospital.
The next part of the equation was the people, the potential pool of employees.
“I’m bullish on the capability of the people of Colleton County and Walterboro, I really am,” Cavazzoni said.
“There are a tremendous number of people (who live in Colleton County) who get in their car each morning and drive to work outside Colleton County,” he said. Bright people who drive one and one-half hours to go to work everyday.”
“What is the likelihood they’d say, ‘I’d like to work five minutes from my house’.”
His prospective employees will not necessarily have to have experience in aeronautics. “You can take a diesel engine mechanic and you can train that person to be a technician on aircraft,” he offered. “A lot of people hired at Boeing were not aerospace people. That worked out great.”
Community-the third factor in searching for a location to establish a business has four elements to it-the city, the county, the state and the business community.
“I say aviation is a team sport, to have a successful aviation business you need to have all the stakeholders together,” Cavazzoni said.
Studies have show that Aviation is the “largest multiplier of indirect jobs compared to other industries.”
Whenever possible, he said, Lowcountry Aviation Co. will try to use local suppliers ensuring that the money stays in the community.
“An aviation business can drive a lot of the economic engine of a community, I think you have seen that in a much larger scope just down the road,” Cavazzoni said.
That economic engine doesn’t have to be in a large community or a large business to see that.
Cavazzoni suggests “As long as we all pull together, we can become a network of businesses that works together to be tremendously competitive in a global environment-which is what we are trying to do, all of us.”