PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport board members cleared the way on Wednesday for a new business.

They approved a ground lease for a fixed base operator named Southern Sky Aviation.

Fixed base operators typically offer fuel and maintenance to private plane owners. They also provide flying lessons and aircraft rentals.

This plan was years in the making.

“We have known about this community for a long time, we’re very familiar with it,” Southern Sky Aviation President and CFO Donald Howell said. “We’ve seen the growth in the aviation community here, and that is driven by a lot of people doing a lot of hard work, bringing tourism here, bringing businesses here.”

Sheltair is the airport’s only FBO right now. Board members said the competition will be good for plane owners, and a growing community needs these services.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for our airport, and it’s also a wonderful opportunity for economic development,” ECP Board Chairmen Glen McDonald said. “We’ve done a really good job on airlines, but we’ve not done a great job on the economic development part until the last few months.”

Howell said they expect to have the site complete and be open for business by December 2023.