Proponents: Airport project vital for growth

By Tammy Helm-Teter The Daily Record

Supporters say that moving forward with the Floyd W. Jones Memorial Airport runway extension project is necessary if anyone expects the community to grow.

The Missouri Department of Transportation completed on an economic impact study for airports in 2006. That study shows that general aviation airports, such as Lebanon's, created 11,000 jobs with $363.7 million in payroll in Missouri. Additionally, airports contributed $1.1 billion in total output to the state's overall economic activity.

Included in the total economic benefit of an airport includes indirect benefits from visitor expenditures, as well as how many times money from an airport employee is turned over in the community.

Commercial airports created 138,500 jobs with $3.3 billion in payroll benefits, with an overall output of $8.4 billion.

Ward 3 Councilman Steve Sing has voiced support of the project and, as a pilot, has firsthand knowledge of the relationship between the airport and Lebanon's businesses.

While others have criticized the environmental assessment, Sing said it supports statements made in the 2003 Master Plan.

"It actually updates the data, with data from years '06, '07 and '08," Sing said.

According to the assessment, 73 percent of the operations at the airport are business aircraft. In the five years prior to 2006, the number of single engine aircraft using the airport decreased, while the number of jet aircraft increased.

Even if the projections were made in 2006, Sing contends that the city will never see numbers that are more current.

"So the data is 2 years old, but that's the most current information we're going to have when dealing with the government," Sing said.

He points out that aviation numbers are down everywhere because of the present economy.

"So what's the first thing to go? As far as a business goes, you're going to get rid of where you think you can save the most money. You need to reduce the aviation department. Get a smaller airplane or one less expensive. And that's just typical around the United States," Sing said.

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