Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rebranding effort takes off for Northwest Missouri Regional Airport

 Maryville Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland

Four years ago the City of Maryville launched an effort to “rebrand” what is now Mozingo Lake Recreation Park.

The marketing campaign, which included new graphics and logos, beefed-up advertising, and a redesigned website that simplified user access to reservations and information about services and amenities, has been hailed as a success by city officials and set the stage for major developments, including ongoing construction of a hotel and conference center and creation of the Watson 9 junior golf course.

Now the city wants to apply some of those same strategies to another municipal resource perceived as underutilized and little known outside Nodaway County — Northwest Missouri Regional Airport.

Formerly known as Maryville Memorial Airport, the original landing strip was built just after World War II and long served as a fairly typical small-town aviation facility catering to hobby pilots and the occasional crop duster.

In recent years, however — and especially this year — the airport has seen significant improvements, and Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland, who serves as the lead airport administrator, believes the time has come to start telling people that Maryville is home to an aviation asset that is primed for growth.

As a first step, Heiland said, City Hall staff has begun working with Hue Labs on developing a new airport website that will offer pilots information about weather, fuel prices, and flight planning. The Nevada-based company is the same firm that created the Mozingo Lake site, which is credited with helping turn the 3,000-acre park and reservoir into a regional tourist destination.

In addition to pilot-related resources, the site will provide flyers and passengers alike with suggestions about where to eat and lodge in Maryville along with opportunities for terminal rental, courtesy ground transportation, and other services.

“As is the case with Mozingo, the website will provide an excellent marketing tool for both the airport and the community overall,” Heiland said. “Northwest Missouri Regional Airport has not had a featured website in the past.”

In addition to an enhanced online presence, Heiland also wants to seek more exposure for the airstrip through trade publications and other marketing avenues.

He noted that the airport’s location, along with the availability of both jet fuel and aviation gasoline, makes it a low-traffic alternative to pilots seeking to skirt both Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph and the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City.

Efforts to better publicize the facility are getting under way now due to completion of a $3.4 million runway rebuild that replaced 4,000 feet of the airport’s 4,600-foot landing strip along with the older of two taxiways.

The project also upgraded the runway lighting system, which can be radio-activated by night-flying pilots.

More than 90 percent of the funding for the reconstruction came from a Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program grant. The city financed its $339,000 local match using a low-interest Statewide Transportation Assistance Revolving Fund loan, a state program known as STAR.

Heiland is hoping to assemble a similar financing package that will be used to repave the existing airport “apron,” essentially a parking lot for airplanes, sometime next summer.

The new runway, which makes the airport a far more desirable stop for small jets and commercial craft, follows completion in 2007 of a terminal building equipped with a spacious meeting room, furnished pilots’ lounge, cable television, Wi-Fi, vending machines, and restrooms.

Pilots, Heiland said, have access to an electronic code that provides access to the terminal 24 hours a day. Flyers are also free to use a city-owned van kept parked in an adjoining lot.

Heiland said the meeting room at the terminal is perhaps its most underused feature, and that the space is available for rent to anyone seeking to host a gathering there.

On other fronts, the assistant city manager has been working with the Hawk Road Flyers, a local aviation club, in an attempt to bring more special events to the airport, such as the group’s annual summer fly-in.

For starters, Heiland said, the group is considering putting together a winter chili supper fly-in sometime next month.

As for long-range improvements, Heiland said the Airport Board, a volunteer advisory panel appointed by the City Council, is looking at the possibility of eventually constructing a “corporate hangar” capable of housing larger aircraft, including small jets, overnight.

Jet landings are relatively rare at the airport, but they do happen. And while the facility’s main function remains providing service to general aviation pilots, Heiland is hoping expanded awareness about the airstrip will increase the number of company planes landing here either to fuel up between cities or because Maryville is their primary destination.

While business drops off in the winter, Heiland said, between 10 and 15 aircraft on average land or take off at Northwest Missouri Regional Airport each day.


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