Government & Politics  May 17, 2024

Customs office coming alive at Northern Colorado airport

LOVELAND — Operations by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are finally beginning at Northern Colorado Regional Airport, more than a year and a half after Windsor developer Martin Lind won approval to place the office in his Discovery Air complex there.

Scott Holst, Discovery Air’s general manager, told the airport’s governing commission at its regular meeting on Thursday that “we’re 100% done other than having an assigned officer.”

Lind had applied for and in 2022 won federal approval to locate the office at the airport, which is jointly owned by the cities of Loveland and Fort Collins, so fliers traveling to and from Canada and other international destinations wouldn’t have to go to airports in Broomfield or Casper, Wyoming, to be processed through Customs. He then asked the airport commission for $200,000 annually to operate the office, but was turned down because it needed funding to build a new terminal in hopes of winning the return of scheduled airline service. So Lind worked out an incentive agreement with the city of Loveland to finance and staff the office at Discovery Air.

CBP has “agreed to dedicate a person to us, not share an officer. That’s what we wanted, so they’ve agreed to that,” Holst said. “They are currently evaluating numerous people who are internal to CBP for experience and who want to be at this location. Obviously, we have a very popular location. Martin Lind has built one of the nicest, if not the nicest, CBP offices in the nation, so there’s a very high demand to be in this office, and to start with one officer, it’s very appealing to a CBP officer.”

All the information-technology infrastructure is “up and running,” Holst said. “We did a full clearance a couple of Mondays ago, and it went flawlessly and really, really well.”

That May 6 first Customs operation involved a Gulfstream 550 aircraft with Canadian passengers that was arriving from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“CBP wanted to make sure they had their documents where they needed them to be and make sure the office would work good for this officer,” Holst said. “Everything checked out, and some of the passengers got in cars and drove away while others went on” in the aircraft.

“The effort right now was to test run it, the offices,” Holst said. “The idea was to give it a really good test run to make sure everything’s in place.”

A pilot intending to use Customs services at Northern Colorado Regional Airport first goes online, Holst said.

“We have an identifier for our office,” Holst said. “They go on line on the CBP website, they say ‘here’s the day I’m coming in, here’s the timeframe,’ they choose our office, they get a response back from CBP saying ‘Accepted. We’ll see you then.’ It’s all done online.

“So then they land at this airport, they taxi over to our apron, and a CBP officer meets them there. The officer walks around the aircraft with their handheld meters and stuff, they check the entire aircraft over, they inspect it, then they allow the door to open and they go in and check the manifest against all the people on board, check the people’s passports. They clear the aircraft, they check it for regulated trash, which we also can handle now at Discovery Air. And then they allow everybody off to go about their way.”

Holst said Discovery Air plans the Customs office to be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but added that “a CBP officer is available with online scheduling, overtime, any time they need it, any time of the day or night.

“Here in a very short time, they’ll assign an officer,” Holst said, “and at that point we’re 100% open and we’ll start expanding services.”

The office will start with non-aircraft-related operations such as “global entries — just for you and I to get pre-approved for global travel. And then we’ll slowly expand the services as the officer can handle them. If it gets to the point where we’re offering too much for one officer to handle, then we’ll start expanding into multiple officers.

“We’re as close as we can be,” Holst said. “It’s just a matter of them choosing the candidate that they prefer.”

Operations by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are finally beginning at Northern Colorado Regional Airport, more than a year and a half after Windsor developer Martin Lind won approval to place the office in his Discovery Air complex there.

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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