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Three submit bids to manage airport

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Three companies -- including a local conglomerate -- have submitted bids hoping to become the county's private partner in managing the Gwinnett County Airport.

Qualifications were due Monday for any company interested in taking over the county airport, as the first step in a possible privatization process. Officials will review the responses, which were sent from Propeller Airports Briscoe Field Inc., American Airports and Gwinnett Airport LLC, and could recommend a short-list next month.

"It could be all three, or it could be one or two," Gwinnett Transportation Director Brian Allen said. "We've got to review and see what their financial capabilities, experience in managing airports and technical knowledge."

While proposals for Briscoe Field, the 40-year-old general aviation airport in Lawrenceville, would be included in the next phase of the bid process, background on the companies themselves could provide some clues to the possible future.

Propeller Airports Briscoe Field Inc. is believed to be a localized version of the New York-based firm who has openly discussed privatization. Propeller Investments has expressed interest in running commercial flights out of Lawrenceville, outlined at whyprivatizebriscoe.com.

Another bidder, American Airports, is one of the largest general aviation airport management companies in the country, its Web site claims. The company manages five airports in California and one in Arkansas.

Little is known about the final bidder, Gwinnett Airport LLC. Company information was not available on a search of the Georgia Secretary of State's website, but representatives from the company said it was conglomeration of local interests.

"They are local people and service disabled people," Jerry Jurden of Norcross said. "We want to keep all the dollars local if we can."

Jurden declined to discuss how the company envisions the future of Briscoe Field.

Once the short list of qualified companies has been established, those companies will be asked to submit proposals for the airport, which could include leasing or buying the county facility. Allen said those proposals would be reviewed, and, as part of a federal program to allow privatization, public comments would be gathered before a decision is reached.