More than two dozen communities across the state will see an increase in construction activity at their local airports over the next several years and the jobs that come with such infrastructure work.
During its recent meeting in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission approved its three-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP targets 35 separate projects at 26 general aviation airports around the state, with construction costs ranging from $132,000 for a taxilane extension at Claremore Regional Airport to $5.85 million for a runway extension at Enid’s Woodring Regional Airport.
“Commerce flows through state airports and helps keep our economy humming,” said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. “Our airports are critical partners in the creation and retention of jobs across our state. The Commission’s three-year CIP will ensure that our airports continue to meet the needs of commerce and communities throughout Oklahoma.”
Through its CIP, the Commission determines the airport projects at the 107 general aviation airports that will be funded with federal and state funds. Projects are prioritized based upon safety, preservation, standards and capacity.
“Oklahoma’s 5.4 percent unemployment rate– one of the lowest in the nation – would not be possible if it were not for the many businesses that use the state’s GA airports to transact business on a regular basis. Our airports help drive Oklahoma’s economy. And, not so coincidentally, those businesses are responsible for employing thousands of Oklahomans across the state,” Director of Aeronautics Victor N. Bird said. “Companies such as Michelin in Ardmore and ConocoPhillips in Bartlesville, both of whom employ about 2,000 Oklahomans, along with Love’s Country Stores in Oklahoma City (Wiley Post Airport) that employs around 1,500, have said that the airport, and the fact they can fly directly to these cities, is a major reason they are located in those cities.”
Bird noted that, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, for every $1 billion spent in general infrastructure improvements, including at airports, approximately 28,000 jobs are supported. Another study revealed that airports were responsible for about 8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and 7 percent of all U.S. jobs.
Out of the 35 airport projects considered by the Commission, eight are funded with state funds only. The largest airport grant in state history of $2.5 million is the runway extension project at Enid’s Woodring Regional Airport that will increase the airport’s 6,250-foot runway to 8,000 feet. The nearly $5.85 million extension project will allow T-38 aircraft from Vance Air Force Base to land at and takeoff from the Enid airport.
According to aviation officials, T-38s are currently unable to land at Woodring airport due to the shorter runway. Once the runway is lengthened, pilots will have another closer option available to them in case they are unable to land at Vance AFB for whatever reason. The longer runway will also provide business jets with more room on which to take off, especially when they are carrying more passengers and/or fuel.
State officials said it is crucial to the Air Force that it has an airport nearby from which T-38s can operate. This is a critical step in defending Vance from being closed as part of the on-going threat of Base Realignment and Closure, also commonly referred to as BRAC. Vance provides 5,600 jobs and has an economic impact of $250 million to the state’s economy.
Other notable state-only grants include $500,000 for both Ada and Grove municipal airports to construct brand new terminal buildings, the front doors to their communities. Officials estimate the new terminals will cost $1 million each to build. The cities of Ada and Grove will pay for half or more of their terminal construction cost. In addition, a state grant for $300,000 was awarded to Anadarko Municipal Airport after recent inspections revealed areas of distressed pavement.
One airport that will receive a significant amount of state funds through the CIP is South Grand Lake Regional Airport located near Ketchum. The Commission approved $675,000 to the airport for projects involving the repair of the runway pavement and improving airport drainage. The airport is a major gateway for tourism in the area that is a significant economic engine.