Saturday, March 29, 2014

Are general aviation airports economically feasible?

LIMA — Area airport managers and an economic development director espouse the importance of general aviation airports, but one national organization wants to see a thorough and objective report showing their value and worth to local economies.

Lima Allen County Airport Manager Ryan Huizinga, Neil Armstrong Airport Manager Sean Stroh and Allen Economic Development Group Executive Director Jeff Sprague contend airports in Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Putnam and Van Wert counties help maintain and generate new economic opportunities.

“There are more than 5,000 public-use airports in the United States, and each airport is an economic generator in its community,” Huizinga said. “Airports generate revenue through activities that include fuel sales, hangar and tie-down rental, aircraft maintenance and services on the airport, such as flight schools, restaurants, aircraft sales and rental. Other revenue comes to the community as visitors rent cars, check into area hotels and visit restaurants and other attractions.

“General aviation in the U.S. is a $150 billion industry that employs more than 1 million people, and airports play an important part in generating that revenue,” he said. “In addition, each airport is part of a national transportation system that links communities and markets.”

Sprague said this importance is stressed during meetings with businesses and filling out questionnaires.

“I know when we are dealing on attracting potential companies, where companies are looking to locate into a community, one of the questions on their inventory list of items they are looking for is do you have a regional airport and the specifics of the airport,” Sprague said. “It is an added check-mark on the plus side for our community when submitting potential site applications.”

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