By Bob Shafer
Many months back, when many Americans were closely following the devastating fallout of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Michigan was grappling with a natural disaster of our own, as a pipeline crossing the Talmadge Creek ruptured, causing more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude oil to flow into our waterways. The spill flowed downstream into the Kalamazoo River, threatening to continue into Lake Michigan and harm the health and safety of our citizens and wildlife.
During this time, many of our first responders and local community leaders, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the uniformed civil component of the U.S. Coast Guard, jumped into action, using boats and small aircraft to survey the area, transport key people and supplies, and aid in the clean-up and ongoing recovery.
The truth is that on a day-to-day basis, much of our public safety relies on our state’s crucial network of airports and aircraft. With the most expansive freshwater coastline in the U.S., we rely heavily on small planes and helicopters to support search and rescue on water and land. These aircraft also facilitate law enforcement, fire fighting, and organ and blood transport.
Local airports are also engines of economic growth and commerce for communities throughout Michigan and across the country. Take the local case of Ventra Evart LLC, a manufacturing company located out of Evart that utilizes the Evart Municipal Airport for “just-in-time” delivery of critically needed components and parts to automobile manufacturers. In addition, the airports and aircraft used by Ventra and other local businesses support jobs and economic activity throughout the state as well. For example, Evart Municipal alone accounts for $518 million of economic activity, and Ventra supports more than 800 local area jobs that would not exist if wasn’t for the local airport.
Throughout the state, Michigan’s 235 airports play an important role in the economic output and prosperity of area communities. Although these benefits are often overlooked by the bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C., some of whom would propose additional taxes on these aircraft operators and businesses, more than $10 billion of Michigan’s economy comes from aviation-related activities, and almost 40,000 jobs from the state’s aerospace industry. These jobs range from mechanics, to technicians, and even the management and administration of the airports.
Aviation is also helping to create jobs for the future of Michigan. For example, Davis High School in Detroit has an aviation education program that allows students to learn about the aviation field. Some even have the opportunity to walk out with their private pilot certificate, helping to create jobs and train our state’s next generation of pilots.
Fortunately, here at home, our state and local leaders have demonstrated their appreciation of general aviation in the state of Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder declared September to be “Michigan Aviation Month,” coinciding with the Michigan Aviation Association’s annual Michigan Air Tour. We at the Michigan Aviation Association encourage our leaders to continue to raise awareness about this crucial form of transportation, and we look forward to continuing to work with these leaders to raise awareness about these airports and aircraft, which will help to support our operators and companies like Ventra across the state to grow and prosper.
Bob Shafer is the outgoing president of the Michigan Aviation Association, and a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.