Even as a company that has roots dating back over 125 years, we believe in the philosophy of adapting to changing times to promote our growth and development. Since my family first purchased property in Eastern Oregon in the 1870s, our business has grown to four locations, including our main location in North Powder. And, for more than 30 years, Beef Northwest has made use of general aviation aircraft and I can say with full certainty that without this critical business tool, we would not be able to serve our many customers across the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
Given the main thrust of our company is ranching and raising livestock, we make use of multiple rural operations throughout the Pacific Northwest and California. One disadvantage of these rural locations is the lack of nearby commercial airports. In my 22 years as managing partner, we have often made use of aircraft like our current turbine Aero Commander to transport multiple personnel to various locations for business meetings and training exercises. With general aviation, we are able to make such trips multiple times a week, a feat that would be impossible by car or commercial aviation.
For example, driving from our main headquarters in North Powder to one of our feed yards in Quincy, Wash., takes five hours. With general aviation, this trip can be made within an hour. This ability to save hours of time and manpower has proven crucial to our growth as a company, since we are able to efficiently manage our locations and conduct multiple business meetings in several locations.
Other businesspeople have made this realization as well and utilize the advantages of general aviation in business application to increase productivity. In fact, general aviation in Oregon helps to support $3 billion in business sales and supports more than 35,000 jobs. Across the country, general aviation is a $150 billion-a-year industry that supports the jobs for over 1.2 million Americans.
In addition, general aviation plays a crucial role in law enforcement, emergency medical response, wildfire fighting, search and rescue, and disaster response.
Unfortunately, many are not aware of the everyday benefits that general aviation provides to our communities. As a result, a particularly harmful proposal for a $100-per-flight user fee tax has been included in the President’s budget proposal in the past and would particularly impact small businesses and farms.
But our elected officials in Oregon seem to understand that general aviation is, above all, a tool to increase productivity and accessibility. Governor John Kitzhaber last year declared October as “Aviation Appreciation Month,” drawing vital attention to the importance of this industry. In addition, Mayor Bob Andrews of Newberg joined more than 160 other mayors from across the country to write to the President in opposition to harmful new taxes for general aviation.
In addition, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Congressmen Kurt Schrader and Greg Wyden, belong to the General Aviation Caucus, which works to protect general aviation and other Members of Congress about its importance. I applaud these efforts and I believe we should all make sure to not lose sight of the vital importance of this form of transportation to our communities across Oregon and country.
John Wilson is the managing partner of Beef Northwest and a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.