Charlie May has a vision for the Sterling Municipal Airport.
The airport manager has been on the job for about a year — and “it’s been a whirlwind of a year,” he said.
Public Works Director George Good told the Sterling City Council Tuesday that the appearance at the airport has “changed dramatically” under May’s supervision. He said May brought a lot of knowledge about airport operations to the city, and then allowed May to give the department report so he could speak about his ideas to encourage development at the airport.
May said “the first block” toward building development at the airport is revising the lease structure for private developers. The existing lease agreement includes a reversion clause — after 20 years, ownership of hangars built by private investors reverts to the city. May said removing that clause would allow developers to be in charge of their investment, and give them the ability to recoup some of that money if they sell their plane.
If and when that change is made, May said he can start advertising in aviation publications to attract developers.
He noted that the change would not cost the city anything, and it could see results in fairly short order.
May said that he’d like to see the airport attract some of the aviation industry from the Denver area, and believes that Sterling has the infrastructure to do that. He noted figures from the Colorado Governor’s Office about the general aviation industry: It supports over 110,000 jobs in the state, with an annual payroll of about $6.6 billion. The aerobatics competition that the airport hosted earlier this year alone brought an estimated $12,000-$15,000 in additional revenue to the city. “Look at the revenue and jobs you can bring in associated with aviation,” he said. “It’s a much bigger picture.”
He suggested that Sterling could attract smaller aviation businesses looking to expand, as the airport has vacant land available. Those companies could bring high-paying jobs, but, he said, “We have to give them the incentive to look at us.”
City Manager Don Saling, who worked with May in Pueblo West, said they had a similar issue at the airport there. Once the reversion clause was removed, the response was immediate.
The council members indicated an interest in making the change to the development lease at the airport, which May found encouraging. “I want the airport to become a vital part of the community,” he said.
Sara Waite: 970-526-9310, firstname.lastname@example.org