County airport approved to accept international flights

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The Sheboygan County Memorial Airport has been designated as one of only two “user fee” airports in Wisconsin. (Appleton International Airport is the other one).

User fee airports are usually smaller airports that aren’t designated as international or landing rights airports but have been granted permission to allow passengers and aircraft from foreign areas to land, for a fee. Permission is granted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade. The user fee covers the services of CBP officers for the processing of aircraft entering the United States, and the passengers and cargo of those aircraft.

A customs and visitors center will soon be constructed at the airport by the County for about $3.7 to $3.9 million.

Kohler Co. has agreed to pay the annual cost of a U.S. Customs officer to staff the center, which would be $140,874 for the first year and $123,438 for succeeding years subject to adjustment for wage increases. Other users of the customs center will pay a fee to use the center. Sheboygan County Administrator Adam Payne said there will be no cost to county taxpayers to run the center.

Three Wisconsin airports are designated as regular port of entry international airports: Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport, Racine’s Batten International Airport, and of course, Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport.

Before Sheboygan County Airport’s designation as a user fee airport, international travelers would have to go through customs at one of the other user fee or port of entry airports before continuing to Sheboygan.

In June 2018, former Governor Scott Walker wrote to the U.S. CBP in support of Sheboygan County’s application for user fee customs status stating that “The Sheboygan County Memorial Airport plays an important role in Wisconsin’s economic development activity. Allowing direct international flights into SBM will boost the airport’s impact on our state and establish a global link to some of the largest employers and tourist destinations in Wisconsin. There are several businesses located in the Sheboygan area that have a strong international presence. Employers including Kohler Company, Bemis Manufacturing, Johnsonville, Sargento Foods, and Acuity Insurance will benefit from the designation. Additionally, Sheboygan County has a strong relationship with the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and has hosted several major golf tournaments. Sheboygan County will again serve as a host to a major tournament in 2020 when the Ryder Cup will be held at Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler. The ability to have direct international flights into SBM would be a tremendous advantage for the citizens and businesses of this important economic region.”

The Aviation Department for Kohler Co. wrote a letter of support to the Sheboygan County Board stating, “I am writing this letter to affirm Kohler Co’s support for the addition of U.S. Customs services to Sheboygan County Memorial Airport. The Ryder Cup in 2020 will place Whistling Straits and Sheboygan County in the spotlight on the international golf stage, and having a Customs facility will help draw visitors from outside the United States to visit Sheboygan County and play at Destination Kohler’s world-class golf courses. A Customs facility would also support Kohler’s expanding operations both in Sheboygan County and abroad by expediting travel for our Associates as well as customers and vendors working with Kohler and other growing businesses in Sheboygan County.”

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