COTTAGE GROVE — Cottage Grove officials hope a recently finished airport rehabilitation project will give the airport and community a much-needed economic boost.
The $2.3 million project included resurfacing the 3,188-foot-long runway at Cottage Grove State Airport, and replacing the signal lights along its length to help pilots see the landing strip at night or in inclement weather. It was funded entirely by federal and state aviation grant.
The project, which began in August, came at an ideal time, Cottage Grove City Manager Richard Meyers said. The airport welcomed a Life Flight emergency transport operation as its newest business tenant last month, joining other tenants such as Kelley’s Experimental Air and D&D Aircraft.
Maintaining the airport’s infrastructure is key to attracting additional tenants to its aviation business hub, and reversing some of its losses after the recession took a big bite out of the small aircraft industry.
The airport accounted for 26 local jobs in 2012, the most recent year state Department of Aviation statistics are available. That’s down from 48 jobs in 2007.
“The recession hit (the industry) hard, but it’s coming back,” Meyers said. “We’re seeing a lot more activity, and the tenants out there now are working on a number of projects to continue to enhance the airport.”
Those include what’s essentially a rental car service, designed to take landing passengers from the airport to downtown Cottage Grove. Tenants also are raising funds to build a welcome center and pilot lounge at the airport.
Federal and state support are key for the kinds of crucial fixes that local communities can rarely fund themselves, said Heather Peck, planning and projects manager for the state Department of Aviation.
The rehabilitation work provided a fresh layer of asphalt on the runway, which is 60 feet wide in addition to its more than half-mile length, for a surface area of more than 190,000 square feet.
The Federal Aviation Administration paid for 90 percent of the $2.3 million price tag, with the state Department of Aviation pitching in the remaining 10 percent.
The state Aviation Department’s economic impact study of Oregon airports found that even a small airport like Cottage Grove’s provides millions of dollars in economic activity each year.
The Cottage Grove airport generates more than $2.5 million in direct and indirect local economic activity annually, from taxes paid by the airport businesses to money spent at hotels and restaurants by pilots and visitors, according to the study.
“Having a good airport and facilities there that are available for visitors is crucial to get people to fly in and get into town,” Meyers said. “We recognize there’s a significant value to the airport and what it means to the community.”