ANDERSON — As Anderson businessman Barry Sharp’s plane rumbled down the taxiway at Anderson Municipal Airport on Friday, the crowd gathered in the frigid air at the end of the taxiway watched as history was made.
Sharp’s plane, which also carried Anderson Mayor Kris Ockomon and two other passengers, was the first to use the airport’s relocated Taxiway A — an $8.9 million project consisting of four phases.
The plane lifted off from the airport around 9:30 a.m. after a ribbon cutting signaling the opening of the taxiway. The event was precluded by aviation officials speaking on the importance of the airport to the community.
Federal Aviation Administration Chicago Office Manager Jim Keefer said general aviation airports, such as the one in Anderson, did not serve only wealthy people with private jets.
“If airports were just for those folks, I wouldn’t be here in front of you, the federal government wouldn’t be involved in airports,” said Keefer, who oversees airport grants for Indiana and Illinois. “The main purpose of this type of airport is for business development.
“This airport serves you all whether you know it or not, and it serves every person in this community whether they know it or not.”
Kevin Rector of the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation said Anderson would be handicapped in the area of economic development without its airport.
“People don’t realize that airports are not renewable resources,” he said. “The closing of any airport really sends the message that this community is no longer open for business. Without this airport, these dollars would be spent in some other city’s economy.”
Bart Giesler of the Aviation Association of Indiana said that organization performs an economic impact study of the airport every two years. The study determines the direct impact, including the jobs and money made at the airport itself, and indirect impact, which involves money spent in the community by those who use the airport.
Further, the study finds the induced impact of the airport, including jobs created throughout the community as a result of the money being spent by airport users. Finally, it shows the transportation cost savings, which includes the time and money saved by flying into the Anderson airport.
Airport Manager Lori Curless said the airport had eight businesses on site, which employed 34 people, not including employees of the airport itself. According to the AAI’s study, the Anderson airport has $4.9 million in direct and indirect impact combined.
The airport has almost $3.1 million in induced impact, and $690,000 in transportation savings cost, according to the study.
The relocated taxiway was a result of new federal standards that encouraged airports to move taxiways and other obstacles that were within the “runway safety area.”
The total cost of the project was about $8.9 million, including $8.46 million from the FAA, $222,5000 from INDOT and $222,500 from the city. For every $1 the city invested in the project, it received $39 in federal and state funds.
Local businesses received $5.9 million of the investment for doing the work on the project, which included new parallel alignment, LED taxiway lights, guidance signs, airfield vault work, lightning suppression network and drainage.
Ockomon said some people in Anderson didn’t believe the airport would be successful.
“We will be an airport that will thrive and survive,” he said.
Contact Aleasha Sandley: 640-4805, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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