Duluth airport chief to leave for Michigan airport postBrian Ryks, executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority for the past 10 years, is leaving to take a similar post in Grand Rapids, Mich.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Brian Ryks, executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority for the past 10 years, is leaving to take a similar post in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Ryks, 49, said he formally accepted the job Monday to head Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Ryks’ last day on the job in Duluth will be June 22.
“It’s been a great almost-11 years. The Airport Authority and the city have been great for me and my family,” Ryks told the News Tribune on Tuesday. Ryks said he wasn’t looking for a new job but that the “opportunity presented itself and it was too good to pass up.”
The Grand Rapids airport service area is more than 1 million people, Ryks noted, and the airport handles more than 2 million passengers every year compared to about 350,000 in Duluth. Grand Rapids airport officials selected Ryks from a field of 20 applicants, according to mlive.com.
A Twin Cities native, Ryks said it was important for his family to stay in the Upper Midwest.
Ryks took the Duluth job in 2002 after serving as director of the St. Cloud, Minn., airport and has led the effort for construction of a $77 million terminal at the Duluth airport that’s expected to open later this year or early 2013. Groundbreaking on a new, four-level parking ramp is expected later this year as well.
Ryks also has been praised for overseeing the arrival of Allegiant Airlines for a successful, seven-year stay that continues. He also helped attract United Airlines to Duluth to offer travelers another choice beyond stalwart Delta.
“Within the first weeks that I came to Duluth, American pulled out and we were down to one carrier again. Air service development has rightly been the priority of the Airport Authority, and it’s been my priority, and I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Ryks said. “Having Delta restore the Detroit run; having Allegiant go to Las Vegas and Orlando and Phoenix and, we hope, some more destinations; having United here … all of those are critical to the health of the airport and the community.”
That competition not only offers choices to local air travelers, but it also has helped bring fares out of Duluth down $26 on average over the last six years while nationally the average fare has gone up $35. The extra cost of flying from Duluth now is less than $80 per ticket, making the airport more attractive to an increasing number of travelers.
John Eagleton, president of the Duluth Airport Authority board, praised Ryks’ term in Duluth.
“Brian has done an outstanding job. He’s really advanced our regional and local aviation mark,” said Eagleton, retired chief officer of North Star Aerospace in Duluth.
Eagleton said a committee is set to meet Friday to begin the search effort. He said it probably will take several months to pick a replacement.
“We intend not to lose the ground we’ve made under Brian’s leadership,” Eagleton said. “It will be a national search.”
Nancy Norr, who served on the Airport Authority for nine years with Ryks on the job, said Ryks was instrumental in gaining the new terminal.
“A lot of us, I think, thought this was just a dream. But Brian pitched a tent down at the Capitol and literally spent days and weeks securing the state money that got us started down that road,” Norr said, adding that Ryks also was key to attracting Monaco Air as the airport’s service provider. That move has helped attract additional business, she said.
“Whether it’s Cirrus or Kestrel or even supporting the airport in Superior, Brian has always been there working hard,” she said.
Ryks graduated from the aviation program at St. Cloud State University and, in addition to the St. Cloud job, spent four years with the Metropolitan Airports Commission in the Twin Cities. He also has worked in management and on noise reduction at airports in Denver and Aberdeen, S.D.