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PTI Airport Director Kevin Baker talks fares, flights, jobs and Starbucks

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Kevin Baker has one of the most multi-dimensional jobs in the Piedmont. He’s part construction superintendent, designer, marketing director and travel agent -- just to name a few.

But he just narrows it down to two: making sure the Piedmont-Triad International Airport’s both an air travel destination and a job-creator.

He’s been the airport’s executive director since October 2010 after having worked for the consulting company that helped the airport successfully persuade FedEx to build its package hub here. It’s a hub everyone thought would generate 1500 jobs. But because of changes in that industry and the economy, it only employs several hundred. Baker says he’s not disappointed.

“No, I wouldn’t use the term disappointed,” he said. “I think they are a jewel to have here. I think the fact FedEx is here led to other businesses locating here such as Honda.”

In fact, FedEx, Hondjet, TIMCO and more than 45 other companies at the airport help pump more than a billion dollars into the local economy and employ about 45 hundred people. That number should grow even more once the airport builds a taxiway from its newest runway, across what is now Bryan Boulevard and eventually Interstate 73 to some 600 acres of land the airport owns on the other side.

As for the air travel destination part of his job, Baker points to the fact the airport’s currently in the middle of a 9 million dollar renovation. Already, the ticket counters have been re-worked and new seating with portable device charging stations have been added. Soon, the terminal’s ceiling will be raised to make the place feel more “open.”

But because of competition from the nearby Charlotte and Raleigh airports—among other things---PTI still struggles to attract more airlines, flights and passengers. Low-cost carriers have come and gone in recent years. Allegiant and Frontier currently fly out of PTI.

“But what happens in markets like ours [is] if you get a low-cost carrier that comes in and then the legacy carriers will match the [low] fares and then folks who have frequent-flyer cards on those other carriers will go back to the other carriers and the low-cost carrier loses them and they exit the market,” Baker says.

So Baker and PTI counter by targeting the low-cost carriers while — at the same time — trying to persuade the bigger legacy carriers to add flights. American, for instance, just added three flights to New York LaGuardia.

In the meantime, for those who are really fare-conscious, Baker has this recommendation: “First, check this airport. Don’t assume Charlotte and Raleigh are going to have better fares.”

To check fares, just head to the airport’s website: