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Business Observer Friday, May 11, 2012 7 years ago

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The economy nearly wrecked the ambitious plans executives had for Rectrix, a private jet service. Four years later the center is a hub of aircraft activity.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Business was tough to find in November 2008 at Rectrix, a new high-end private jet service at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

Makes sense in at least one regard, considering the global economy imploded that October. “You could not have picked a worse time,” to open a private jet business, says Rectrix President Richard Cawley.

Still, Rectrix, with another facility and a corporate headquarters in Hyannis, Mass., persevered. The facility now has at least half the local market share of private jet service, says Cawley. Revenues doubled from 2009 to 2010, adds Cawley, and were up 8% in 2011. He declines to elaborate on specific annual revenue figures.

But the growth, says Cawley, required an all-out effort. For example, when Rectrix first opened, employees would track tail numbers of private jets that used a competing service at the airport. Rectrix would then target those jet owners to become clients.

“It was hard street-level work,” says Cawley. “They didn't just come here. Our employees had to work for it.”

Rectrix is a fixed-based operator, or FBO, which means it can provide general aviation services for private jets. That includes fueling planes, chartering flights, maintaining aircraft and providing storage space.

On the storage side, Rectrix currently leases space for 20 planes, which fill up its 45,000 square feet of hangar space. Rectrix General Manager Greg Read says there's a waiting list 30 names deep to get in the hangar.

The Rectrix facility is 180,000 square feet spread over 20 acres. The building is three stories and has several high-end features for passengers and airplane crews, including a video game system in a pilot's lounge.

Regular clients at Rectrix include several Fortune 100 CEOs, says Cawley, people who have Gulf Coast vacation homes. Others just pass through Rectrix.

For instance, Read says the Rectrix runway filled up quickly a few months ago, when the NFL held an owners finance subcommittee meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. The planes were lined up, seven or eight, when the meeting ended. Some had team emblems on the back.

“It was pretty cool,” says Read. “Other than a Super Bowl, you don't see so many NFL owners like that together. This is a one-of-a-kind place.”

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