The first regular cargo shipments to Williams Gateway Airport will begin this week, which officials say is key to the facility becoming a major player in the East Valley’s economy.
Gilbert-based pilot John Phillips of Triton Air will make the first flight on Friday, carrying a load of aluminum casings from the Mexican state of Sonora.
Phillips will then fly the products on his twin-engine Piper Chieftain to an aerospace company in Indiana.
This business deal is significant in the economic development role that Williams Gateway plays, airport executive director Lynn Kusy said.
"It looks like this is going to be the start of weekly shipments from Guaymas and Mexico," Kusy said.
The cargo is from Precision Products de Mexico, an offshore manufacturer Phillips helped set up in Guaymas about two years ago. Several of the 35 or so other factories in the area are interested in shipping goods eventually, Phillips said.
"Right now I’m carrying stuff for my own company, but as other plant managers learn about what I am doing, they’re saying , ‘Hey, we’re going to need that, too,’ " he said.
Automobile, aerospace and other manufacturers have a presence in Guaymas, but Phillips said "I’m not sure if (the companies I’m talking to) want to be named, since foreign job placement is so political right now."
He expects to make weekly cargo flights, which he said could create jobs in Guaymas and the East Valley.
Guaymas’ mayor and other officials had planned to come on Friday’s flight to celebrate the event, but they canceled because of a visit to that city by Mexican President Vicente Fox.
The airport opened 10 years ago at the former Williams Air Force Base, and one of its key goals is landing passenger and cargo service.
A U.S. customs office opened at the airport about a year ago, and freight storage company Gateway Logistics de Mesa opened earlier this year to provide temporary storage. Construction on the first phase of an 80,000 square-foot cargo warehouse is getting under way.