The Colorado Springs Airport has hired the former outreach and recruitment specialist for Harrison School District 2 as its first-ever marketing and communications manager - a job that puts her in charge of a campaign to persuade Pikes Peak area residents to fly from the local airport instead of driving to Denver.
Heather Lenard, who started in the newly created post late last month, will manage the airport's marketing, public relations, media relations and communications. She previously headed her own communications and public relations consulting firm after leaving D-2 in October.
The airport created the marketing position earlier this year and posted the job on the city's human resources website with an annual salary of $71,628 to $89,532. The position was recommended by a marketing consultant the airport hired in 2013 to help reverse declining passenger traffic, which fell to a 22-year low of 650,529 last year.
Although Lenard does not have experience in the aviation industry, Airport Director Dan Gallagher said Tuesday she was hired because her "overall skill set of getting community engagement was impressive, and that is more important in the long run."
Lenard's primary role will be to meet with groups and employers to find out what is important to them in local airline service. She also will manage the airport's $400,000 marketing budget, which includes $100,000 to market newly established routes - something the airlines requested.
"We have had a lot of starts and stops on community engagement, but we are committed to building engagement," Gallagher said. "We want to find out the price points, destinations, frequencies and schedules travelers want. We want to get the pulse of the community and convey it to the airlines."
Lenard spent nearly two years with the 11,179-student Harrison district, developing recruitment strategies for students and teachers, as well as attracting business partnerships and building support for the district's initiatives. Before joining D-2, she spent eight years as outreach coordinator at a Jackson, Miss., nonprofit that works to improve college access for the state's residents.
Lenard said she applied for the job because "I had been working in education for 13 years and I wanted to take the leap into a marketing and communications role in a new industry. I believe in the airport and I want to be part of it."
She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Pikes Peak, a local training program for community leaders, and a 2010 graduate of a similar program in her native Jackson. She received a bachelor's degree in health professions and related clinical services from the University of Mississippi and a master's degree in corporate communications from Mississippi College.
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