BROOKE COUNTY, W.Va. — A new focus is on regional airports to help drive the local economy. It was a hot topic when West Virginia Congressman David McKinley stopped by the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport on Thursday.
McKinley has been making his rounds at the smaller airports in his district. He’s trying to get a better handle on what the aviation industry is dealing with. He says these airports are crucial for economic development.
McKinley says the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport is crucial for economic development to takeoff.
“I can’t imagine putting together an economic development plan if you don’t have an airport for people to come in,”
McKinley said. “Whether it be to ship your supplies or product out or bring things in.” Some of the problems this airport is facing are high fuel prices and the lack of a flight school.
“Just having a quality facility that is dependable, having a flight school here, having secondary jobs that come with it, have people with more than just a simple paint job. That’s nice to have but let’s go further, let’s have a vision of where we can take this airport,” he said.
McKinley believes with the oil and gas industry, the sky should be the limit for regional airports to expand. “We should be right there to be able to take advantage of an airport of this quality and the excellent staff we have here to be able to use this as part of a tool for energy, to be that hub of energy research and energy development,” McKinley said. Now he’s taking these concerns back to Washington and seeing what he and other lawmakers can do about them.
“Almost every time we will find a nugget in a meeting, something we can center on and try to do a better job and we’re hoping we find that nugget here today,” McKinley said. “And if nothing else, I might be able to share with them what other airports are doing that are comparably sized in comparably sized communities.”
When the congressman gets back to Washington, the discussion also may lead to some fireworks with other lawmakers. He mentioned how others have wanted to cut service to smaller airports and don’t necessarily grasp their importance to the local economy.