By Joe Roetz
February 14, 2011
FORT MYERS:It’s a sight Barry Bratton calls progress.
“This is the front door to our community,” saidBratton, the Lee County Port Authority Director of General Aviation.”The first thing visitors will see.”
For 25 years, a modular building has served as the welcome mat to pilots landing atPage Fieldin Fort Myers.
Pieced together and renovated, it’s now past its prime.
“It’s undersized, it wasn’t designed for the long term so it is at the end of its life cycle,” Bratton said.
Its replacement is a two-story welcome center, with a 24,000 square foot airplane hangar not far off.
The $32 million project broke ground last year. It is partially funded through federal grants and gas taxes through the Federal Aviation Administration.
Bratton says not a penny of Lee County taxpayer money went into the new buildings.
A recent economic impact study by Florida’s Department of Transportation found Page Field contributes more than $94.5 milliona year to the local economy, with close to 1,000 jobs.
That is money local businesses would like to see a lot more of once the project is complete.
“We have at leastfour customers that we know of that have planes at Page Field,” saidJenny Isenhower of the Golf and Casual Shop. “They fly in and come to our store. We’d love to see more.”
Bratton says the reasonis simple.
“General aviation is not the least expensive mode of transportation,” he said. “So the folks selecting this are spending higher dollar amounts in the community.”
Business owners may get their wish. In 2010, there was athree percent increase in private planes arriving at Page Field compared to 2009.
The project is scheduled to be completed around the beginning of summer.