Opportunities at airport

Published 8:16 pm Monday, December 9, 2013

This morning, we should know if the construction contract for a new terminal building at Warren Field Airport was approved by the Washington City Council was approved during its meeting Monday night.

For the sake of economic development, including new jobs, in the area, let’s celebrate the awarding of that contract, if that’s what the City Council did. If it did not award the contract, let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.

Some people don’t believe the city should own and spend money on the airport. They see it has a financial drain on the city. To be sure, the city has lost money over the years in running the airport. Those losses have been getting smaller and smaller.

A better way to view the airport is as one tool in the toolbox the city uses for economic-development. The airport provides opportunities for economic development. Want proof? OK, here it is.

Last month, the council authorized the city manager to sign documents pertaining to the project. The project was discussed by the Airport Advisory Board, which supports it. The board believes the revenue generated for the city by the solar farm will help offset some airport-related expenditures, according to a memorandum from Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director, to the mayor and council members. The council approved leasing airport land to Washington Airport Solar LLC for up to 15 years (an initial five-year term with options for two additional five-year terms), with rent at $1,200 per acre per year. The ground lease (which the council must approve) is for 34.3 acres. The means the city would receive just more than $41,000 a year in rent.

Metro Aviation Inc. is operating an air medical service at Warren Field Airport and serves as the airport’s nonexclusive fixed-base operator.

Skydive Little Washington LLC is operating a jump school at the airport, under terms of a five-year lease.

Both businesses are paying rent for using the airport. They also spend money for local services and supplies. That means other local businesses are benefitting from their presence at the airport.

The new terminal building, other airport improvements and these enterprises will help improve the economic-development landscape in the city.