By Dave Bergeimer
The economic impact of the local airport exceeds $1 million to the community, according to the chairman of its advisory committee.
Besides the airport report, Abilene’s Economic Development Council also approved a recommendation on industrial land funding policy when it met Tuesday.
Airport advisory board chairman Jim Price said that according to multipliers supplied by the Kansas Department of Transportation, the local airport provides 18 jobs, a payroll of $359,400 and economic impact of $1.1 million.
The number of landings and use of services can range from 50 to 500 a month. The city owns 10 of the 16 hangars, Price said.
Price, who recently attended a Federal Aviation Administration meeting, said to rebuild the airport it would cost about $17 million to $20 million.
The airport is considered to a general aviation airport owned by the city with Jim Curtis serving as the fixed base operator. The primary runway is 4,100 feet long.
Price said the global recession the past two years has affected business at the airport, too. Several businesses have curtailed the number of flights.
Funding for improvements includes state and federal spending, most of which involves matching local funds that allow the city to leverage local monies. The airport also receives a half mill in property taxes from the city. The airport receives $150,000 annually from the FAA. City manager Allen Dinkel said the monies can be pooled and in turn used to help fund large improvement projects. The monies are generated from ticket sales and other revenue generated across the country, that is then shared with large and small airports.
The airport maybe a less publicized part of Abilene’s economic base, Price said, but added that new and existing businesses look at transportation services that are available. He said with Interstate 70, rail line service and an upgraded airport that is an asset.
The airport is in the process of installing an automated weather observation system, which not only helps pilots and those who provide emergency air services, it also will provide local weather information that can be made available to the general public, Price said. Right now, many decisions that are weather related have to be made from airports in Manhattan or Salina.
Price said once the AWOS is implemented he could see where it might help local police and fire departments as well as public schools.
The airport is the site for the annual fly in and this past May attracted 75 aircraft and more than 600 people were served at the annual pancake breakfast.
The airport, located at 801 S. Washington, has 16 aircraft based in Abilene.
Large and small employers in Abilene use the airport, Price said. It also gets a significant number of visitors who will fly here to meet family and friends, but also those who use the courtesy car to eat at local restaurants and tour the community for a day.
The development council gave a favorable recommendation on an industrial land funding policy. The policy is designed to attract existing businesses to expand or to recruit new industry.
The recommendation, which was approved unanimously, will be reviewed by the Abilene City Commission. The council began a formal review of the policy during its regular June meeting.
Community development director James Holland said the policy is designed to encourage employment and investment in industries that manufacture or add value to products outside the community that in turn benefit Abilene. The statement indicates that the policy should foster industrial growth and by doing so the city supports investing resources into land acquisitions that accommodate new, expanded and relocating activities.
Benefits of the policy may be applied toward the purchase of land that is within the city limits, can be zoned industrial, be platted and it can be served by public infrastructure such as water, sewer, streets, electricity and gas.
An individual industrial growth project must meet the following minimum benefits:
• $250,000 of private capital investment in land, buildings, equipment and site improvements;
• minimum of four new full-time employees;
• base wage rate of $9 an hour for each created position.
Any project meeting the minimum requirements is entitled to a city investment of $4,000 an acre. When a project exceeds the minimum requirements, additional per acre funding will be offered on a formula of $500 per acre for each additional full-time employee that exceeds four. Also building improvements could net a company $1,000 per acre for each additional $50,000 in investment.
The new policy does require detailed descriptions that are subject to review by the development council and the city commission. The eligible property must provide the city a letter of credit and be subject to a compliance review. After the fourth anniversary of the purchase of the land, the letter of credit would be automatically released.
The economic development council is a policy-making board. It has no authority to expend tax monies. The city commission has the final say on any potential projects.
The city also has 20 acres of free land it offers in its industrial park on the northwest edge of the community and has an option on another 20 acres, Holland said.
Council member Steve Gieber said the incentive is for companies to use that site first. Council member Shelly Crane agreed that site is ideal because of its proximity to Interstate 70.
The city has had the free land offer for several years, Holland said, and it has attracted some interest for development activities such as a truck stop, dog food manufacturing plant and an industrial prospect who eventually went to Newton.
The council also discussed goals and tasks for industry.
Holland outlined how he works with the Kansas Department of Commerce with companies that are looking to expand.
The council focused on visiting industry with a vision statement that once an industrial prospect visits, it stays.
Among the tasks are maintain and disseminate the industrial sites booklet, establish protocol for community visits to include preferred sites, routes and meal guests, and foster a relationship with Kansas Department of Commerce recruitment officials.
The council also discussed working with chamber of commerces in Manhattan and Salina, for example, to develop ties that could land a small- or median-size company. Council members also discussed identifying complementary industries that could benefit existing industry and manufacturers.
The council will continue discussion on the topic when it meets in August.
Source: ABILIENE REFLECTOR CHRONICLE