August 4, 2008

Into the Great Wide Open: Passion Fuels Frallic’s Daily Flight

By Lofton, Lynn

What's it like to run an airport? Bruce Frank, executive director of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, makes it seem easy. The affable Bruce Frallicformer Marine Corps pilot handles the intensity of his job in a quiet, positive way.

Associated with the aviation industry for 42 years, principally in airport management positions, Frallic caught the airport hug while stationed in Pensacola, Fla., as a young Marine pilot. Receiving no pay due to military regulations, he worked for the Pensacola Airport manager where he learned a lot.

"I followed him around and went to a lot of conferences with him," he recalls. "I got excited about it. Pensacola was my last station, and when I got out I was looking for some-thing to do to parlay my aviation experience and business background "

That search led Frallic to a management position in Raleigh- Durham, N.C.. and to Mississippi in 1974 when he opened the Hattiesburg-Laurel Airport. He came to the Coast in 1986, managing what has become one of the fastest-growing airports in the country with growth of 400% in 10 years.

"I love aviation - it's my passion," he states unequivocally. "I have no regrets about my career. There are still things that gel me so excited."

One of those exciting things was the recent opening of a USO facility for military personnel coming and going through the airport. It is staffed by volunteers and is also the regional USO office.

It's difficult for Frallic to describe a typical work day because the days are full of variety and because he'd rather discuss the many projects underway or recently completed at busy Gulfport- Biloxi Airport. The soon-to-be-completed air cargo terminal is a special project that requires much of his time each day. The project was begun before 2000 and had setbacks from the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Now it is scheduled to be handed over to the lessee in early July and start moving cargo. At the time he spoke with the Mississippi Business Journal, Frallic had just returned from Mexico working on air cargo agreements.

"We (airport management at Gulfport-Biloxi) try to specialize on projects and mine is air cargo." he says. "That way we can spread ourselves around. I'm fortunate to have really good people to work with."

He's usually in the office by 7:30, beginning with getting the day ahead organized. He deals with a myriad of things, spending most of his time in business development projects, working on contracts and agreements, answering questions, meeting with other directors as needed and striving to develop additional service for the airport. He also keeps minutes for the Gulfport Biloxi Airport Commission, and notes that public relations is a big part of managing an airport.

"There's a full range of duties. I realized how deep it was in Raleigh-Durham. The range is never the same. It's constantly changing," he says. "I jump into my projects early in the day with phone calls, e-mails, faxes and letters. Part of it is talking to airlines and attending community meetings."

Frallic and other airport employees participate in numerous community organizations that promote the area's business, trade and tourism. He has served on the executive committee of Foreign Trade Zone No, 92 for 22 years. He is also a past president of the Mississippi Airports Association and Southeastern Airport Managers Association, and is an accredited member of the American Association of Airport Executives.

"One of the challenges of managing an airport is working with businesses and the community to keep the facility and services growing once we've sold the community to an airline and the airline locates here," he says. "The airport is a challenging responsibility because it's a public agency and we must find funding to expand."

Increasing these challenges are rising fuel costs and the constant vigilance of security.

"Airlines are under a lot of strain. We're going to take some licks and may lose a couple of flights," Frallic says. "But, I don't think it's 'Chicken Little' time. The airlines will get smarter. We're still strong and have seen recent growth with a new Dallas- Fort Worth flight and some charters."

The airport is also in good shape with security, having a new area in the recently completed new terminal space that is working well. The terminal building expansion, new rental car service center, general aviation area, new FAA tower and parking garage have all been completed in spite of the delay caused by Hurricane Katrina. The airport has 34 full-time employees and a total of 1,300 people work in the airport.

At this time, the 64-year-old Frallic has no plans to retire. He just wants to continue his love affair with aviation.

Copyright Mississippi Business Journal Jul 7, 2008

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