Ontario Airport Transfer Ceremony

Former Administrator, Michael Huerta (January 09, 2013–January 05, 2018)

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for that introduction, Alan, and good afternoon everybody.

I am very happy to be back home in Southern California. And I am delighted to be able to help celebrate this landmark occasion with you today.

Some of you might know that I grew up just a few miles from here, in the community formerly known as Rubidoux, and that is now known as the City of Jurupa Valley.

Over the years, my work has taken me far away, to places including San Francisco, New York, Salt Lake City and, now, the nation’s capital.

But the Inland Empire will always be home.

You know, one of the things I remember most clearly about living here in the 1960s and 1970s was how bad the air was.

It seemed like this soupy, brown smog was always hovering just above our heads.

Back then, we also had a saying that the Inland Empire was an hour away from amazing beaches, pristine desert and verdant mountains. But to my friends and me, we joked that that meant we were in the middle of nowhere.

Well, things have certainly changed, haven’t they? And that didn’t happen by chance.

At my alma mater, UC Riverside, one of the main focuses of the campus was how science and public policy could be combined and applied to improving air quality.

The work done there helped this region become one of the driving forces behind scrubbing California’s air of the omnipresent brown haze.

And, over time, California became a worldwide leader in developing and enacting strategies for improving air quality.

This region also took steps to strip itself of the “middle of nowhere” moniker.

Local leaders didn’t want to be just a bedroom community of Los Angeles.

They realized that to control their own destiny, they had to actively build their own economy. And build they did.

In the process, they were smart about attracting a diverse foundation of businesses to the area. And, just as important, they were smart about establishing the right zoning regulations around Ontario International Airport.

Aviation is 5 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product, and the Inland Empire’s leadership understood that the airport is a vital economic engine.

They acted to protect it from incompatible surrounding development that could threaten its viability.

As a result of their forethought and deliberate planning, the middle of nowhere gradually morphed into the middle of everywhere.

In recent years, you decided that gaining local control over the local airport was the next logical progression in this ongoing master plan.

When the folks here first started talking about assuming control of the airport, I think it’s fair to say that the betting line in Vegas would have been solidly against them.

This was really a monumental undertaking, with scores of moving parts that had to fuse together perfectly for this thing to work. And the roadblocks were incredibly daunting.

First you had to get consensus that local control was really something the region collectively wanted to achieve.

Then you had to form an airport authority.

Then you had to reach an agreement with the City of Los Angeles to part with an asset it had run for nearly half a century.

And, once that agreement was forged, you had to assemble a leadership team capable of crafting a vision for this airport and piloting it into the future.

The process could have derailed at any point, and more than a few people predicted it would. The fact that it didn’t speaks to the drive and determination of the leadership here in the Inland Empire.

And it also speaks to the commitment of the City of Los Angeles to embrace and help effect this change.

I often talk about the importance of flexibility and collaboration to our success at the FAA. It’s critical to the effectiveness of everything from our aviation safety oversight system to our efforts to safely integrate drones into the national airspace.

Flexibility and collaboration were also key to steering you to where you are today with this airport. It took the efforts of everyone directly involved in the process, and a number of others on the outside, to make this happen.

I cannot begin to recognize everyone who played a critical role in forging this transfer. But I do want to acknowledge some of the key players:

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Congressman Ken Calvert.

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano.

Congresswoman Norma Torres.

Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Ontario International Airport Authority President Alan Wapner, and CEO Kelly Fredericks.

And, of course, Los Angeles World Airports CEO Deborah Flint.

The danger in recognizing a few is you leave out many whose efforts were critical to us being able to gather here today. So to everyone who played a role in this process, I say congratulations for a job well done.

Well, Ontario, you are now the dog that caught the car.

As of today, the public record shows that the Ontario International Airport Authority owns and operates Ontario International Airport.

From this day on, your job isn’t just to grow the airport.

Your job is also to maintain an airport that is safe.

That is publicly available to all users.

That meticulously observes every requirement of our comprehensive commercial airport regulations.

You have the responsibility to be good stewards of this vital asset. And you have the opportunity to even further define the future of this region.

Your journey has been—and will continue to be --challenging, enlightening, frustrating and invigorating – sometimes all at once.

But I think your future is a bright one.

Now the key question is this: what is the story that will be written for Ontario International Airport and the Inland Empire?

Marketing and building up service at medium-sized airports like Ontario has never been an easy task. And the challenge is arguably greater today than it has been in the past.

The FAA forecasts that much of the nation’s passenger growth over the next 20 years will occur at the largest and busiest airports as airlines continue to consolidate their structures and schedules to become more profitable.

The airline industry also has experienced unprecedented consolidation, with four major mergers in five years.

But with great challenges come great opportunities.

Here in the Inland Empire, a wide range of groups and interests have shown they’re adept at working together toward a common goal. That is very important.

And the region has an awful lot going for it.

You’ve seen impressive economic growth, adding nearly 200,000 jobs over the last five years. And in 2016, you’re on track to add another 50,000 jobs.

Much of this growth reflects the region's traditional strength in logistics. But healthcare and manufacturing are also seeing significant gains.

A strong business base translates to strong business demand for air transportation service. And economic growth means more demand from leisure travelers as well.

Moreover, Ontario's location in the heart of the Inland Empire is an advantage for area residents who want to avoid languishing in Southern California's infamous traffic congestion.

You have embraced change and challenges head-on, with an unwavering determination to achieve your goals, regardless of what roadblocks rise up in front of you.

If I were a betting man, I would say the odds in Vegas have flipped since this process first started. I’d say smart money would be placed on Ontario International Airport to succeed.

I won’t be surprised if, in a decade or two, we look back at this very occasion as a seminal moment in the history of this airport.

I won’t be surprised if we say this was the beginning of its ascendance toward becoming an even stronger and more vibrant regional anchor than it is today.

Again, thank you very much for allowing me to be part of this celebration.

And congratulations to everyone for persevering to get to where we are today.

Thank you.

And now, I would like to ask Alan Wapner and Kelly Fredericks to come up. 

I am pleased to present to you, the Ontario International Airport operating certificate, and the airport transfer letter.

Again, congratulations.