FREEPORT - A $1.7 million state grant will help keep Albertus Airport a viable airport in the years to come.
This spring, workers from Civil Constructors, a local firm, will begin resurfacing the airport runway. The project will be paid for by a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics.
"All that work stays local, which is really great for the community," Darrell Janssen, airport manager, said.
Cracks have emerged in the hard-surface runway, but Janssen said the resurfacing is not extraordinary.
"This is just another maintenance thing along the way," he said.
The airport, which has been in operation since 1945, features one hard-surface runway and multiple grass runways. Business such as Newell, Honeywell and Titan Tire use the facility, as do financial firms and other smaller businesses. Agricultural aircraft also use the airport. There are currently 63 aircraft based at Albertus Airport, Janssen said.
Mayor Jim Gitz sees the airport as a chance to boost the local economy. Airports such as the one in Rockford are beginning to move away from general aviation and focusing more on freight, leaving some small businesses in a bind. Gitz said Freeport should seek to capture their business.
"There's a growth opportunity there, and the question is whether Freeport is going to seize it," he said.
Gitz compared Albertus to Highland Community College. When the college was being built in 1962, many questioned why people would need an associate's degree and why Freeport needed a community college, he said. Now, more than 50 years later, Highland is widely regarded as one of the best community colleges in northwest Illinois, he added.
"I think Albertus Airport is somewhat in the same category," Gitz said. "It may not be clear today how important it is, but once people start seeing everything in motion, I believe they will start to catch on."