Hopes for a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport are years away from reality as the city seeks federal and state funds to help pay for the $40 million project.
City spokesman Steve Sapp said Columbia officials have been speaking with state legislators to try and secure about $10 million and hope to obtain as much as $20 million from the Federal Aviation Administration. In November, voters approved a lodging tax increase that is expected to generate $10 million over 10 years for the project. Sapp said officials want to wait until the funding is set and secure before establishing a timeline for construction. When it does start, construction likely will be done in phases, starting with stormwater infrastructure, roads and then the building itself.
The airport is bursting at the seams, Sapp said, with Transportation Security Administration lines taking up much of the lobby in the 16,000 square-foot terminal during peak hours, which can inconvenience people flying to or from the airport’s two destinations, Chicago and Dallas.
“We’re just simply out of room,” Sapp said.
Columbia Regional Airport contributes in no small way to the region’s economy, supporting or providing about 745 jobs, is worth about $26.9 million in payroll and generating about $87.2 million in economic output, according to a 2012 economic impact study, the last one conducted at the airport.
Sapp said the city often compares its airport to that of Manhattan Regional Airport in Kansas, which also is in a college town. Manhattan has about 56,000 residents, and its airport is the second busiest commercial airport in Kansas. According to an economic impact study of Manhattan Regional Airport, also from 2012, it supports 489 jobs, is worth $13.4 million in payroll, and contributed $46.3 million to the state’s economy.
About 130,000 passengers used Columbia Regional Airport in 2015, Sapp said, and a slight increase is expected for 2016’s numbers. Officials constantly are exploring ways to offer more routes and destinations, he said, something that will be easier with the new terminal and allowing the airport to contribute even more to the region.
As the airport plans to expand, developer Larry Potterfield has bought about 400 acres nearby to build into an industrial and commercial area within the city limits of Ashland, a southern Boone County city of about 4,000. Ashland Mayor Gene Rhorer said Potterfield’s development, west of Highway 63 on Route H, combined with another development on the east side of Highway 63 on Route H, also in Ashland, will have a positive effect on his growing city. The airport is just outside Ashland’s city limits.
“I think you’ll see a lot go on this year,” Rhorer said.
Rhorer said he hopes the airport’s expansion will spill over to the Ashland area.
“The more traffic to the airport, the more potential traffic past the commercial development in that area,” he said.