Friday, October 31, 2014

Lake County, city leaders mark Lost Nation Municipal Airport (KLNN) transfer

After an eight-year layover, Lake County and its’s economic development agency have ceremonially taken over the Lost Nation Airport in Willoughby.

Members of the Lake County Port and Economic Development Authority, Willoughby and Mentor city officials and Lake County leaders gathered for a ribbon cutting Oct. 31 to commemorate the transfer at the Classic Jet Center at the airport.

“I think this is an exciting day,” said Mark Rantala, executive director of the Lake County Port and Economic Development Authority. “We are going to try to operate it as an effective business attraction tool for Lake County and support the business of Lake County who surround the airport and benefit from air service at their front door.”

The transfer was official Oct. 8 and moved the ownership from the city of Willoughby to Lake County and the Lake County Port and Economic Development Authority, a transaction that took eight years and was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“The optimal course of action was for the authority to take over the airport from the city of Willoughby with the county as our cosponsor, and we would manage it as a self-supporting entity,” said Harry Allen, chairman of the Lake County Port and Economic Development Authority Board. “That is our goal and job at hand, and it is a big one but we are excited.”

The airport currently has 115 employees, and Allen said he hopes to add another 100 jobs in two years.

“I think that is a realistic goal,” he said. “At the same time, we have taken out all of the doubt for those people who are current lease holders, and there are many, who didn’t know what the future would be, so that solidifies their planning and enable them to consider new investment in their existing facilities and possibly new facilities.”

All three Lake County Commissioners were at the event to show support for the transfer.

“I’m a firm believer that government doesn’t create jobs, but I think government’s role is to make sure the proper infrastructure, property amenities and proper services are in place that will make business take off ... and I think that is what we have done here,” Commissioner Daniel Troy said at the event. “We didn’t really have any interest in getting into the airport business as a county, but there were a lot of people that felt this was a very important part of our economic infrastructure to maintain the presence of an airport in Lake County.”

He said the transfer will encourage investment in the property and the property surrounding the airport.

“I think by doing this today, we have made Lake County a little bit better,” Troy said. “This is a great day for Lake County because it will improve our economy and I think that is what we are all doing in partnership here.”

Willoughby Mayor David Anderson said at the event that it was a “surreal moment” for him.

“I don’t feel like I am withdrawing Willoughby from the airport,” he said. “We know Willoughby is going to be a big part of the future as is the city of Mentor, and we are going to be true partners here, Willoughby, Mentor and Lake County, in making this the very best airport it can be.”

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