More Masters Tournament patrons flew into town this year on their own planes – or at least, their “partly owned” planes.
Flexjet, a leading provider of fractionally owned private jets (think of a timeshare with wings), says business is up again this year at Augusta Regional Airport, where the roughly 3,000 private jets that descend on the Garden City during Masters Week account for nearly three-quarters of the airport’s entire private plane activity for the year.
The 2016 tournament activity was a 3 percent increase over the previous year, a Flexjet spokesman said, adding that this year’s private jet turnout might have been the largest to date.
Fractional jet owners are (obviously) well-heeled individuals, but many are typically owned by small groups or corporations making the most out of their investment.
“In many cases, our owners will fly down several groups from differing locations through the span of competition to view the tournament, all on one set of passes,” the spokesman said.
The Cleveland-based company’s hospitality lounge at the airport’s private jet terminal this year offered bourbon-tastings, a cigar bar, “locally sourced” hors d’oeuvres and a luxury candy buffet called the “Sweet Spot.”
You won’t find any of that in the main terminal, that’s for sure. And the best part? No Transportation Security Administration patdowns.
ROLL OUT THE RED CARPET: Not all VIPs came to Augusta on private jets. Nearly three-dozen of them were brought in on two motor coaches as part of the annual Red Carpet Tour, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s economic development event to showcase the state’s business-friendly climate to visiting CEOs, site-selection consultants and industry representatives.
The four-day tour always coincides with the Masters Tournament because, well, that’s how economic developers lure the expansion-minded corporate executives to town.
Industrial recruiters say the event, which started in 1960, isn’t a “hard sell” – it doesn’t matter how expansion-minded the company is, no executive wants to hear a sales pitch while watching Rory McIlroy sink a putt – but a chance to build relationships with potential corporate citizens.
As Robbie Bennett, head of the Development Authority of Columbia County, pointed out to me during this year’s event, some communities actually have to pay site-selection consultants to come to their town.
In Augusta, they come to us.
Something to keep in mind is that 2016 Red Carpet Tour guest EdenCrete, the concrete additives manufacturer planning to build a nearly $70 million factory and corporate headquarters in the Augusta Corporate Park, made its announcement just one week after last year’s Masters Tournament.
Obviously, the Australian company had decided on Augusta before going on the tour, but its presence on the tour gives you an idea of how this high-level wheeling and dealing occurs.
This year’s tour included representatives from food-processing companies that local economic developers have been heavily courting in recent months. Perhaps an announcement is already cooking?
HALF-BAKED IDEA: It’s nice to see the brainiacs over at Augusta University also have a sense of humor. In case you missed it, the state research university on April 1 – April Fools’ Day – issued a news release touting a new development in golf protective gear: the SafeTee Dome Defender™.
According to the release, “Dr. Eric O’Dum,” a “neuro engineer and researcher,” spent more than two decades developing the product, which features an “optional Poly Shield for pollen protection” while protecting the wearer from the “three most common golf head injuries: being struck by a club, a ball or a golf cart.”
The $182.80 “Dome Defender” was an ordinary motorcycle helmet with AU decals on it.
That’s the joke.
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org