Sunday, January 08, 2012

Stewart International Airport (KSWF) will reach potential. Newburgh, New York

When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Board of Commissioners approved a $20 million authorization this month for the expansion of Stewart International Airport’s passenger terminal, it was as clear a signal as ever that our agency’s commitment to the airport, our customers and the mid-Hudson Valley has never wavered.

We’ve stayed the course throughout the economic downturn that quickly followed our acquisition of the airport in 2007, and as we begin our fifth year as the airport’s operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey remains determined to fulfill Stewart’s potential as a strong regional airport and economic engine for the Hudson Valley. It hasn’t always been easy, as the Great Recession hit regional airports across the country particularly hard, with many losing most or all of their flights. However, at Stewart, our policies and efforts not only allowed us to hold onto existing air service, but to add new flights as well. In the last year or so, Delta and JetBlue added frequencies, and we inaugurated our new temporary U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility with seasonal service to Cancun, Mexico.

By investing more than $56 million in capital projects and devoting countless hours of staff time to air service and business development, we’ve delivered benefits that ripple far beyond the airport’s borders. Our investments at Stewart since we took control in 2007 have created hundreds of jobs generating millions in total economic activity, with more than half the contracts awarded to local firms. That’s important to us, which is why we’ve hired firms from towns like Newburgh, Maybrook and New Windsor within Orange County, as well as companies in nearby Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Rockland and Westchester counties.

More improvements are on the way. The planned expansion of our passenger terminal over the next three years will separate domestic and international travel operations and add 31,500 square feet of new space. With completion expected by December 2014, the expanded terminal will enable Stewart to handle more than the current upper limit of 1 million passengers annually – a crucial step for the airport’s future.

This project alone will create 120 jobs paying $8 million in wages and generating $33 million in economic activity for the mid-Hudson Valley.

Outside the terminal, the Port Authority has made extensive infrastructure improvements, including enhanced runway approach lighting and new weather systems that enable carriers, including our Air National Guard partners, to enjoy state-of-the-art operating conditions.

We continue to explore opportunities with domestic and international air carriers regarding additional passenger service at Stewart, and have devoted considerable resources to promoting the airport. The most recent radio campaign, for example, featured more than 1,000 spots about Stewart, and we’ve also used billboards, print and the internet to deliver our message. But the best advertising is from our customers, who through word of mouth continue to popularize our – and their – airport.

I’m pleased to report that when the final numbers are in for 2011, we expect to easily exceed 400,000 passengers for the year, making this our best annual count since 2008.

Cargo results also have been strong, with tonnage totals expected to be up about 30 percent for the year, supported in part by a new daily FedEx flight added in late 2010. The “eight-pound passenger” doesn’t get a lot of attention, but we know cargo will play a key role in Stewart’s economic development.

Stewart plays an important role in our airport system, and its future is limited only by what we cannot imagine for it. We’ve seen glimpses of its great promise for the region, and are confident that its best days are still ahead.

Susan M. Baer is director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Stewart International Airport, along with John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, La Guardia and Teterboro airports.


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