Airport Vital Partner in Community's Economic Development
April 18, 2013
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  • There’s a whole lot more to Yuma International Airport than the comings and goings taking place at the passenger terminal.

    “We’re more than a typical regional airport,” Gen Grosse, corporate account manager for Yuma County Airport Authority, told the audience at Thursday morning’s Know Yuma: Inside and Out.

    The topic for this month’s forum was Yuma International Airport’s contributions to the community’s economic development through aviation-related businesses.

    Since 2007, more than $35 million in both public and private money has been invested in the airport’s infrastructure, Grosse said. Those dollars not only have fueled badly needed construction jobs for local contractors, they’ve created hundreds of permanent jobs and represent an investment in the future of the community.

    “We’ve been very busy with construction projects,” she said.

    Some of that investment has funded improvements to runways and parking aprons, the terminal and other infrastructure to benefit the flying public.

    Most recently, the airport completed a project to expand the secured seating area in the terminal, adding restrooms there for the convenience of waiting passengers and creating more space for TSA so that agency could install updated screening equipment, Grosse said.

    Other projects in the last couple of years have included adding solar shaded parking and opening a military comfort center for traveling military. The airport is served by two airlines, United Air that provides service to Los Angeles and US Airways that flies to Phoenix. It has four major car rental companies, two air ambulance providers, an active general aviation community and Million Air, a fixed base operator that serves as a “service station” for aircraft.

    Yuma’s airport is a shared use airport with Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Grosse said, explaining that while military and civilian operations have separate areas, they share runways.

    “Everything we do, we ensure we don’t interfere with the military mission,” she said. “We support their mission and add value to what the military is doing at both MCAS and YPG.”

    That’s why much of the airport’s focus has been on developing the Defense Contractor Complex to provide facilities for both short- and long-term leasing by defense contractors working to support MCAS and Yuma Proving Ground.

    The two latest projects there include the construction of the $5 million Aviation Industrial Center, expected to be completed in August, and the nearly finished Amelia Earhart Hangar. Both projects are being built by Yuma contractors: Eckard Commercial Construction and LPC Construction.

    “They were the most qualified,” Grosse said. “They earned it. The local teamwork is impressive.”

    In addition, the airport is in the process of developing a master plan for Rolle Field southwest of Yuma, which is expected to become an important asset for future development of aviation in Yuma County. For now, it is most often used by the general aviation community to practice touch and go landings.

    However, the airfield has lately become an important adjunct to the Yuma airport’s Defense Contractor Complex, providing a remote location for aviation and defense industries as well as the University of Arizona to conduct aeronautical research and development.

    All this effort has international implications, Grosse said, noting that the Defense Contractors Complex operations manual is written not only in English but also German, Korean, Chinese (Taiwan) and Italian.

    The airport also is an active participant in efforts to market and promote the Yuma area, Grosse said. For example, it has been handing out welcome to Yuma bags to arriving passengers and the television screens will be installed to provide information promoting local businesses and events.

    Grosse noted that the Yuma airport was one of six airports in Arizona recently recognized by the Arizona Office of Tourism for promoting the state. And next year, the Yuma airport will host the 2014 Arizona Airports Association spring conference that is expected to draw 150 people to Yuma.

    The Know Yuma series provides business people with information on a variety of topics about the Yuma area. The monthly meetings are hosted by the Yuma Sun in partnership with Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp., Yuma Visitors Bureau, Yuma County Chamber of Commerce and city of Yuma.