The potential of having a U.S. Customs facility at the Long Beach Airport should be a no-brainer. It doesn’t alter the city’s airport noise ordinance but it does expand the airport’s and the city’s economic potential and international image and influence.
We are and will continue to be the International City, with one of the best port complexes in the world, a diversified population and one-of-a-kind cultural arts programs – including the Museum of Latin American Art and an emerging Cambodia Town. Additionally, we’re home to the internationally recognized Queen Mary, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the new all-electric e-Prix – of which Long Beach is one of 10 host cities worldwide – and we have Sister City relationships that stretch from Ecuador to Kenya to China and Russia. Our positive international reputation is also enhanced with companies such as Mercedes-Benz USA, Virgin Galactic and Shimadzu Aircraft Equipment USA establishing operations adjacent to the airport.
A customs facility to welcome international travelers is a natural next step that will open the door to tourists and conventioneers, boosting our hospitality and tourism industry and possibly even foreign entities opening branch operations in our city. We’ve heard it time and time again, when business people visit Long Beach for the first time, they fall in love with our city, its people and our unbeatable weather.
While JetBlue Airways is the entity that made the request for customs service, it would be far from the only user. Corporate aviation businesses at the airport will be in a better position to participate in a citywide economic development vision. These include entities such as Gulfstream, which has customers worldwide and is increasing its presence and jobs at the airport. Currently, those aircraft customers must clear customs in other areas of the country or at LAX before flying into Long Beach. Other airlines already here – American and Delta – will examine opportunities for international flights, as will the city’s newest carrier, Southwest Airlines, which is expected to begin service over the next few months.
The beauty of all this economic activity – which translates into additional high-paying jobs – is that this can be accomplished without interfering with the city’s noise ordinance. It also does not cost taxpayers a dime because user fees cover all the costs.
While we recognize there is an ongoing feasibility study that was approved by the city council to examine these facts – a process that is important – we see no downside to a customs facility. Those who politicize this project, or wish to use it to create fear by communicating misrepresentations that are less than truthful about its impacts, are doing a disservice to the city and to its residents. The airport manager, city staff and councilmembers should move quickly to put the facility into operation – and we do know it can be accomplished in a very short timeframe. Any effort to drag this out is, again, purely politically driven.
We urge city officials to immediately move forward with establishing a federal inspection customs facility at the Long Beach Airport.