New Rental Car Center in works for Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage Daily News via NewsEdge Corporation : Sep. 2--A state industrial development agency is considering issuing $36 million in revenue bonds to pay for construction of a rental car center at Anchorage's international airport.

The idea is to build a four-level building that would house the rental car companies' ticket counters, provide indoor parking and be equipped with car washes, vacuuming stations and fuel pumps to service the rental cars on site, said Mark Pfeffer, an Anchorage developer who is heading up the project.

Pfeffer has been working with a consortium of rental car companies for four years to try to get such a facility built. Earlier plans were sidetracked by events like the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the bankruptcy reorganization case of Alamo Rent A Car's parent company, he said.

But now, with most of the airport-based rental car companies supporting the proposal and potential financing from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, construction could begin by next summer, Pfeffer said.

"It's all in progress, and it's not a done deal," he said. "But our schedule is to break ground in the middle of next year."

Under the proposal, AIDEA would serve only as a conduit to sell the bonds that raise the money for the project. The car rental companies would be responsible for repaying the debt, which they would do by collecting additional customer fees, said Jim McMillan, the state agency's deputy director of credit and business development.

Although they haven't come up with any firm figures, Pfeffer said the planned financing would likely add about $4 a day to the cost of renting a car.

Anchorage's car rental industry has grown in recent years, and rental car companies have been trying to get more space at the airport.

Currently, they stage their cars mostly in an uncovered area next to the new railroad depot attached by a tunnel to the main terminal's recently rebuilt Concourse C. When a car needs refueling, washing or minor service, the rental car companies typically drive it off site, take care of the problem, then drive it back to the airport.

Pfeffer's plan is to build a rental car center where the current staging area is and attach it to the main terminal by a pedestrian tunnel.

Mort Plumb, director of the state-owned airport, said such a project fits with the airport's broader expansion plans.

"It's important that we have a plan for the future that accommodates the rental car industry," Plumb said. "They're getting bigger, the cars need more space, and we need to make getting a car more user friendly."

Although the rental car companies have agreed to collect the fees to pay for the new center, the current plan calls for transferring its ownership to the state once it's built, Pfeffer said.

The rental car companies also are willing to share some of its parking space for public parking if the airport runs out of public parking spaces, he said.