Akron-Canton Airport is a community asset with much to offer travelers and businesses, said Renato "Ren" Camacho.

GREEN  The first three months on the job will be busy for Renato "Ren" Camacho.

Camacho starts Oct. 1 at Akron-Canton Airport as the new president and chief executive officer to replace Rick McQueen, who retires Dec. 31. The pair have lined up 53 meetings during that 90-day stretch so Camacho can meet area government and business leaders.

The thought of so many meetings prompts a broad smile from Camacho, who will come to Akron-Canton after seven years working for the Cleveland Department of Port Control and Hopkins International Airport.

Engaging with the community is a key to ensuring the airport remains competitive, Camacho said. Airports are key economic drivers for a community, and in turn the community needs to support the airport.

The string of meetings will be part of the transition plan the pair have been developing over the past two weeks after the Akron Canton Airport board selected Camacho for the post. As new president and CEO, Camacho will be paid $175,000 per year.

"I think that 90 days will give him a firm footing," McQueen said of the transition.

McQueen, who joined Akron-Canton in 1982 as an accountant, announced retirement plans in January with the intention of giving the airport's board time to search for his replacement and leave enough time for a smooth transition. The board conducted a national search and considered 43 candidates.

McQueen, who wasn't involved in the search, said he's looking forward to working with Camacho. They have known each for about two years, having worked with some of the same consultants. They also talked and have shared ideas, McQueen said.

New York native

Camacho, 48, is from New York City and grew up in The Bronx. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and studied civil engineering. He earned a master's degree in transportation planning and engineering from New York University. In 1993, he joined the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as an intern and that led to a full-time job.

New York's port authority manages John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports, and Camacho did work at all three facilities. He developed an interest in aviation and stuck with it, he said.

Camacho left New York for Cleveland in 2007 and hoped to find a position in aviation. In 2011, he began working for Cleveland's port authority, which manages Hopkins and Burke Lakefront Airport.

"Airports are cities within cities," Camacho said, explaining what drove his interest in aviation.

Akron-Canton fits that description. The airport is circled by business development areas, including three industrial parks on airport property. Camacho said the airport needs to engage with businesses in those parks, make certain needs are being met and see where improvement might be made.

Room for growth

Commercial airlines are the most visible part of the operation. Four airlines — United, American, Delta and Spirit — offer direct flights to 12 cities.

Airline consolidation has taken a toll on service at Akron-Canton, which saw growth during the 1990s when it built a reputation as a low-cost alternative to Hopkins. A merger between Southwest Airlines and AirTran took away Akron-Canton's largest airline, and Southwest eventually focused its service in Cleveland.

Camacho said support from the community is needed to attract more airline service. He will continue to remind airlines that Northeast Ohio offers a wide variety attractions and Akron-Canton provides the access. The airport has a reputation of being competitive on costs and for being a convenient and efficient airport for passengers, Camacho said.

As he comes on board the airport will be involved in its final part of a 10-year improvement program. Work to modernize and extend the airport's gates should start later this month. Camacho said he looks forward to continue the growth and development that started under the leadership of McQueen and his predecessor, Fred Krum.

Camacho said he'll continue to promote the airport as a community asset.

McQueen said he believes Camacho, who is buying a house in the Greentown area, will be a great addition to the community. "I'm excited to see where he takes the airport next."

Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @epritchardREP