With so much news to share in 2022, one of the most exciting announcements from Paragon Flight, the completion of our long-awaited expansion project, got short shrift. I want to rectify that now, not only because it’s a stunning and smart 28,000 square foot addition, but because the team that made it possible deserves public thanks. First some background…
We moved into our original Page Field building in mid-2007 and by 2009 we’d completely outgrown the space. Like most flight schools, our facility is located on government property, so expansion is incredibly difficult. That’s why we were kind of “stuck” in place for lack of a better word. For a span of about ten years, the Port Authority administration at that time was in no hurry to help or approve our growth plans. Honestly, it was so frustrating that we were only a few months from relocating the entire enterprise to Texas as our new home in early 2020. But a few things happened – COVID, of course – but also the introduction of a different kind of leader at Lee County Airport Authority: Ben Siegel. Ben had a vision of how public private partnerships could work and embraced our expansion plans – and we are grateful for his support.
Albert Dambrose, architect extraordinaire from Studio AD, and Chris Heyer of Heyer Quality Construction were outstanding in their respective areas. Albert took our crude sketches (like 1995 Microsoft paint crude) and made our vision come to life by designing a high-tech, campus-like atmosphere that creates a community and encourages engagement between students, staff and all members of the Paragon Flight family. It was important to have a friendly, open concept that was inviting but also functional for studying and collaboration; green space to encourage outdoor gatherings as well as self-study; and a welcoming kitchen for all to use. No dark corridors or sterile institutional feel for Paragon Flight!
Chris Heyer had never taken on an aviation project of this magnitude before but you’d never know it. His company’s work was impeccable and Chris personifies honesty, integrity and hard work. He’s just a great human all around. Love that guy.
Rounding out the team of ‘advisors’ who made the expansion a reality is the person that probably deserves the most credit, Randy Thibaut of LSI Companies. Randy worked with us for literally three years to help our plan evolve from a pie-in-the-sky dream to something that was viable and attainable. He believed in us as humans and our vision as entrepreneurs and never gave up – even when we had. He mentored us on how to navigate county and government regulations, negotiate leases and, in a nutshell, represented our best interests in guiding the expansion to closure. We sincerely appreciate his mentorship, advice and friendship. It would never have happened without Randy and his team.
Now we have a school environment that makes our students and staff proud to be a part of – a place they feel comfortable and supported, with ample room to learn using industry leading simulator technology and aircraft. But that’s not the end of the story…
Because of the delays wrought by the pandemic, specifically supply chain issues, the project took longer than anticipated – and we are outgrowing our new space much sooner than we anticipated. That’s mainly because more and more high-achieving individuals are seeking out Paragon Flight for an optimal flight academy experience. It’s a fantastic problem to have – and when we’re ready for the next phase, it’s comforting to know we have a great team that’s ready to get to work.