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Interactive airport business center to open here
Seattle firm starts concept in Cincinnati, then nationally

A privately held Seattle firm has selected the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to open the first of many interactive business centers planned for airports all over the world. 

Laptop Lane Ltd.'s centers will be aimed at trying to make life easier for the millions of "road warriors," also known as business travelers, who fly the world's skies. 

Laptop Lane will open its first location in the airport's concourse B April 27. The centers will provide business travelers with staffed, private suites providing Internet access, e-mail, fax, phone, laser printing and teleconferencing services. Start-up costs weren't disclosed. 

"We've erased the boundaries separating working in the office and on the road," said President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Merrell. "More than 290 million business travelers pass through 66 major U.S. airports and they need networked satellite offices wherever they travel." 

Merrell said the local airport was chosen for three reasons: it's the country's fastest-growing airport, it's Delta's second-largest hub and it features "progressive management." 

"They can see a trend. Computing has become mobile, but the peripherals are stationary," Merrell said. 

He characterized business facilities at the airport as inadequate, considering the huge demand for the private, high-tech work centers offered by Laptop Lane. 

The 2-year-old firm, founded by Merrell and three partners, will open its second facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in June. Plans call for nine centers to open by the end of 1998 and negotations are continuing for additional facilities. Merrell plans to open 100 Laptop Lanes over the next five years. 

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport already offers glass-enclosed public business centers at concourses A and B, equipped with cubicles, telephones and electrical outlets for laptops, according to an airport spokesman. Terminal C has no such facility and the other two run on a first-come, first-serve basis. An airport spokesman said Laptop Lane's services will be in high demand and the airport's existing facilities aren't meeting that demand now. 

Many road warriors have historically turned to airline clubs such as the "Crown Room," run by Delta Airlines, for relief, said Ira Weinstein, an authority on airport services who runs New York-based Air Marketing Services Inc. 

"But those places are designed for relaxation and enjoyment. Seating areas for drinking and eating must take precedence over work space. That's why they usually don't have the quiet, private work areas business travelers need," Weinstein said. 

Laptop Lane will be open seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and will be staffed by "cyber concierges," technically proficient advisers to help with software, hardware and connectivity issues. Rent at the dozen 36-square-foot suites costs $8.95 for 30 minutes, plus long-distance and fax fees. 

There's a healthy market out there for Laptop Lane, particularly at the local airport: an estimated 20 million passengers use it annually, more than half of whom are business travelers, according to the airport spokesman, who added the numbers are increasing. 

Michael Mullaney, properties manager at the airport, said Laptop Lane could transform business travel. 

"We're proud to be the first airport in the country that offers a state-of-the-art suite of offices, staffed and available to the passengers who pass through the airport," Mullaney said. 

 1998, Cincinnati Business Courier 





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