July is an appropriate time for Fort Morgan to be celebrating aviation.
Not only did the new runway open at the city’s airport and new hangars start getting built, Mayor Terry McAlister proclaimed July to be General Aviation Appreciation Month in Fort Morgan at the July 7 City Council meeting.
As part of the proclamation, McAlister pointed out the city’s “significant interest in the continued vitality of general aviation, aircraft manufacturing, aviation educational institutions, aviation organizations and community airports.”
Fort Morgan Municipal Airport is one of 61 Colorado public-use airports that serve nearly 17,500 pilots and more than 5,400 general aviation aircraft, according to McAlister’s proclamation.
That’s not even covering all the fixed-based operators, repair stations, heliports, pilot schools, flight students and instructors in the state, including some of those things and people here in Fort Morgan.
All of that makes for significant economic impacts at the state and local levels. General aviation is estimated to contribute more than $2.4 billion to Colorado’s economy each year. A 2013 state report, the most recent available, estimated Fort Morgan Municipal Airport’s economic contribution to the communities it served was $3 million in output, affecting at least 32 jobs with an annual payroll of $1 million.
Those numbers are likely to grow in coming years, what with the new, longer runway allowing for some larger aircraft to land and take off, as well as new hangars getting built and room for more growth at the airport.
“I believe that the airport will continue to add economic development impact to all of Morgan County,” Fort Morgan City Manager Jeff Wells said.
Part of ensuring that could happen was replacing and expanding the runway at Fort Morgan Municipal Airport.
“We’ve had individuals who do business in various communities by plane note the time savings from air travel” and the previous inconvenience of having to fly into the airport in Akron due to the runway length versus being able to land in Fort Morgan, Wells said.
While the new runway still will not accommodate all private, corporate and small aircraft, it will be able to handle take-offs and landings for more types and sizes of planes than previously was possible.
There already is evidence of the improvements at Fort Morgan’s airport sparking some economic growth, as a new aerial firefighting company is getting started based out of the Fort Morgan airport and at least two and likely three new hangars are getting built.
“I think we’re going to see more and more development of hangars out at the airport,” Wells said.
But he pointed out that the supporting the airport’s operations was more than the city could handle on its own. The federal government paid for 90 percent of the multi-million-dollar cost of the new runway, with the state pitching in 5 percent and city tax-payers only paying the remaining 5 percent.
“The real economic advantage is the business that takes place because of the airport,” Wells said. “The city doesn’t make enough revenue (off the airport) to offset the costs” without such help.
The Fort Morgan mayor sees the airport as a vital part of the community.
“Without an airport, your city dwindles,” McAlister said upon the new runway’s completion. “It’s an important thing to have.”