Maryville business and civic leaders gathered at Northwest Missouri Regional Airport on Friday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and luncheon celebrating the completion of a $3.4 million runway reconstruction project.
State Rep. Allen Andrews, R-Grant City, delivered brief remarks to the group on a refurbished airport taxiway, calling the upgrade, which was funded largely through a Federal Aviation Administration grant, an important card in Maryville’s deck of economic development incentives.
Linking such improvements to the Republican-dominated legislature’s efforts to pass so-called right-to-work legislation, which would ban mandatory union dues, Allen predicted that Missouri — as a right-to-work state — will attract new industries, and that communities with up-to-date infrastructure will be in the best position to recruit those enterprises.
While an airport equipped to handle small jets and provide 24-hour service is not really a “deal-maker” with regard to economic growth, Andrews said, the lack of such facilities can be a “deal-breaker.”
“Don’t underestimate the importance of having an airport in your community,” Andrews said.
Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland, who serves as the city’s lead administrator for the airport, said that the facility serves as a “gateway” to Maryville and a “vital piece of infrastructure for the community.”
Formerly known as Maryville Memorial Airport, the airstrip, located just west of town on Highway 46, was built just after World War II and long served as a fairly typical small-town aviation facility catering to hobby pilots and the occasional crop duster.
In recent years, however, the airport has seen significant improvements, including the addition of a jet fuel island that provides a low-traffic alternative to pilots seeking to skirt both Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph and the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City.
The new runway follows completion in 2007 of a terminal building equipped with a spacious meeting room, furnished pilots’ lounge, cable television, Wi-Fi, vending machines, and restrooms.