New customs facility at Sheboygan County Memorial Airport could lead to long-term growth

AnnMarie Hilton
Sheboygan Press

SHEBOYGAN - The Sheboygan County Memorial Airport is adding a new U.S. customs facility to allow for direct international travel and the potential for significant growth.

The facility is scheduled to open in time for next fall's Ryder Cup. Sheboygan County has been working with the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics on this project over the past decade. The bureau will provide more than half of the funding for the project — $2.5 million of the $4.2 million projected total cost. The rest of the funding will come from the county's capital project plan. 

That money will go toward a new building for a full-time customs agent and administrative offices. Some of the money will be used for tangential projects like redoing the airport's parking lot, said Greg Schnell, director of the Sheboygan County Transportation Department.

International flights will have 24-hour access to the tarmac, he said. The airport will continue to serve private aircraft, with no immediate plans to add commercial service.

Currently, the county allows third-party businesses to operate at the airport, providing refueling and other services. In turn, the county receives a portion of the profit from their local sales.

"We rely on fuel sales to help maintain the airport," Schnell said.

Increased traffic from the new customs facility will provide financial benefits to the airport, Schnell said, noting that this is a great opportunity for growth. With greater fuel sales at the airport, it will require less taxpayer support in the future.

Renderings of the US Customs facility that is scheduled to open in the summer of 2020.

"We'd like to get the airport off the tax levy and become self sustaining," he said. 

Project bids are due in a month and will be processed through the Bureau of Aeronautics. Schnell said they are hoping to start work by the end of November to meet their operational goal of next summer.

Kohler Co. was the main driver of the new facility, Schnell said. The company entered a long-term agreement to cover the cost of the customs agent and the utilities of the new building.

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