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Established in 1946, Bemidji Aviation began its operations with a single Noordyn Norseman aircraft. Located in the small town of Bemidji in northern Minnesota, the aircraft solely flew between Bemidji and Minneapolis and continued as such for over 20 years.

It wasn’t until 1970 under an acquisition that the Phillips 66-branded FBO started to take off; the FBO began operating four Cessna 150 aircraft that were used for charter flights, fire patrols and flight instruction. A decade later, the FBO added scheduled services from Thief River Falls, Worthington, and Mankato, Minnesota to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

“Expansion was a huge part of Bemidji Aviation’s history between 1981 to 1991,” said Melanie Lawrence, FBO Manager at Bemidji Aviation. “Since then, we have added small-feeder cargo services in addition to passenger and cargo charters—making us a full-service FBO.”

Lawrence, recently having joined the Bemidji team as FBO Manager, has been in the aviation industry for 20 years. Her career began in the Army where she was an air traffic controller as both military personnel and a civilian, travelling all over the world.

“I managed aviation government contracts and entire bombing ranges, was a dispatcher, and also worked construction on airfields oversees,” Lawrence said. “Every job has taught me something completely new and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the possible things I could do in this industry. There have been some non-aviation jobs I have held, but none have ever been as thrilling or rewarding as this.”

Bemidji’s operations keep Lawrence and her team busy, as their customer base ranges from local general aviation to air cargo charters. Bemidji is also a large tourist destination in the summer, being near several lakes amidst the beautiful landscape of Northern Minnesota.

“Bemidji also has an event center which draws talent and entertainment from across the United States,” Lawrence said. “We also service University of North Dakota flight program students, as well as the Department of Natural Resources.”

The FBO additionally invests much of its efforts towards community events and opportunities. Local school groups come to Bemidji every month to tour the facility, which helps promote the FBO’s flight school, while the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) sends classes to Bemidji to get students in touch with mechanics and discuss careers in aviation.

“Currently, Bemidji is working on a multi-day job fair event with the regional airport,” Lawrence said. “We want to see what interest is out in the greater community in hopes to encourage more young people to enter the industry.”

A Phillips 66-branded FBO for over 30 years, the fuel provider has been dependable throughout their relationship, according to Lawrence.

“We know when to expect our fuel from the Phillips 66 team and can count on them to be very communicative,” Lawrence said. “Every single one of my team members has something amazing to say about Phillips 66, from maintenance to the accounting department.”

Lawrence’s Bemidji Aviation team currently includes six customer service representatives and eight line staff. The staff, Lawrence says, is what makes Bemidji stand out as an FBO.

“The majority of our team members are Bemidji natives, so everyone is community-oriented and has that welcoming spirit that is common in small towns,” Lawrence said. “Customer-service wise, we excel and always go above and beyond.”

The FBO is eager to capitalize on this small-town feel, as it plans to undergo several expansion projects.

“Ultimately, we are trying to make it a bit more ‘Minnesota,’ a place where everybody knows everybody and they can feel that small-town warmth when at Bemidji,” Lawrence said.

Future expansion plans include connecting the terminal west building to the FBO, as well as remodeling the interior, runway construction and the addition of a building operations center at the Bemidji Regional Airport.

In addition, the FBO is working towards supplying self-service fuel, which will be available in the next year.

“Self-service fuel will take Bemidji into the future,” Lawrence said. “Being able to provide this to our customers shows we want to make their journey through Bemidji as convenient and comfortable as possible.”