The value of an airport
Believe it or not there are some politicians who understand the value and greater contribution that an airport brings to the community.
Believe it or not there are some politicians who understand the value and greater contribution that an airport brings to the community at large, not just the pilots who use it. Back in 2006, the State of Pennsylvania governor granted $5 million to GA airports in his state (note not hub or international airports – but GA). At the time of the announcement he stated that, “Many Don't Realize The Value Of General Aviation”. Well halleluiah – at least someone gets it!
A few years back, I was asked to work with a group interested in getting a new airport together for general and corporate aviation. The location was north of the GTA in a largely rural/estate lot residential-type community. It was just far enough away from Toronto to make sense as another airport. The project went really well as long as we were dealing with aviation folks. We had agreement on runway size and location, hangar needs, ramp areas and fuel. The place was full and working – at least on paper.
Then it was time to turn to the community. The developers were thrilled. They saw office and light manufacturing opportunities galore within close proximity to the new airfield. Firms with corporate aircraft locating there, firms in need of just in time delivery for parts and even aviation support and development firms were to be part of their business park. A hotel and conference center was mentioned Calls and letters ensured the idea was more than a dream and held validity. The small local hospital was on board seeing the opportunity for medivac support service introduction – which was much needed in the area. Heck, even the local farmer was willing to lease back adjacent lands and use them.
Enter the politicians and local homeowners. That is when it all came to a crashing halt. To quote the mayor: “No airport will exist in my community. I like the peace and quiet. We don’t need it.” And that is where it all ended.
The aviation world is sick of fighting for an existence and all the rhetoric and negative energy that comes with it. In this particular case, there simply was no way of going forward. However in Pennsylvania, the investment of $5 million went to help 12 airports with improvement needs. This governor totally gets it. He said:
“Investment in airports will help stimulate local economies and provide better service for customers. The enhancements and expansions allow the airports to attract and increase corporate, commercial and private aircraft activity, which will help generate revenue and job opportunities."
He had done his homework and noted that the economic impact of local, general aviation airports is 288,000 jobs, and contribute $5.6 billion a year in payroll and $12.6 billion to the economy.
As our smaller airports fight to stay in business with proper facilities, runway maintenance and improvement and now security demand (current and proposed), they cannot go it alone. The folks with the money – hello Ottawa and our provincial heads – need to help. And if they need a lesson on why, I suggest they call Pennsylvania to learn something.