Central Nebraska Regional Airport was presented the 2018 3rd District Excellence in Economic Development Award by Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., Wednesday at the airport.
Smith and Mike Olson, the airport’s executive director, were joined at the ceremony by representatives of the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp., the city of Grand Island and the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce.
In all, Smith presented awards honoring 11 individuals and businesses who have helped to strengthen Nebraska communities through innovation, hard work, entrepreneurship and historic preservation.
“I’m proud to announce the winners of our 2018 Excellence in Economic Development Awards who have done so much to expand opportunity in Nebraska,” Smith said. “Tax reform and deregulation are improving the conditions necessary for robust economic growth, and I’m excited to see their benefits in improving the lives of all Americans.”
At Wednesday’s event, Smith said the idea behind the award is to recognize those businesses and individuals that have made a difference in the lives of others and are pursuing economic progress throughout the 3rd District.
When asked why the Central Nebraska Regional Airport was honored, Smith cited the airport’s growth, including its dramatic increase in enplanements during the last decade.
“When you look at the numbers here, it is indisputably a great example of growing the economy, offering customers more options, and more,” he said. “It is customer-driven.”
Smith, who is seeking re-election to a sixth term in the U.S. House this fall, has been an advocate of the government’s Essential Air Service program that helps underserved rural airports to continue to provide essential transportation services.
“We have seen increased enplanements across Nebraska,” he said. “Grand Island really preceded that and had formed some great partnerships.”
With the addition of Allegiant Airlines and American Airlines flights to Mesa, Ariz., Las Vegas, Nev., and Dallas, enplanements last year totaled about 67,000, compared to a total of about 8,000 nearly a decade ago.
That growth in the number of people boarding flights at the airport facilitated the construction of a new $14 million terminal several years ago to accommodate the growing number of people who fly out of and to Grand Island. Also, a new administration building will be completed next May.
The airport is also a hub of economic activity with businesses, such as FedEx and UPS that have a combined five flights into Grand Island daily. The airport also has an industrial park that has companies that add jobs and tax revenue to the area economy.
“This airport is very diversified in that it has not only passenger traffic but also cargo traffic, military traffic, general aviation traffic and business traffic,” Olson said.
The text that Smith read into the congressional record reads as follows: “Central Nebraska Regional Airport, Grand Island: A Grand Island area airport was opened originally by the Grand Island Aero Company, organized by World War I pilot Floyd Thompson, on private land owned by H.O. Doc Woodward in 1919. Other than a stint as a U.S. Government training facility for the 6th, 502nd, and 376th Bombardment Groups during World War II, the Grand Island area airport has enjoyed a long history of local public ownership and commercial use. The facility is known today as the Central Nebraska Regional Airport. In 2016, it completed the construction of a $14 million passenger terminal. When this terminal opened, its annual enplanement numbers exceeded 64,000, and its local economic impact rose above $158 million. These numbers have only continued to rise. Today, the Central Nebraska Regional Airport rivals its eastern Nebraska counterparts for service and travel availability to support residents of greater Nebraska’s travel needs.”
Olson said the airport receiving Smith’s economic development award is an honor.
Olson said Smith has not only been accommodating when he visited Washington, D.C., but he is always soliciting advice from Olson and the airport board.
“That means a lot to me and the airport authority,” he said.
Smith also honored the Anson family of Grand Island that he said has helped to change the landscape of Grand Island’s downtown area.
In honoring the Anson family, Smith said: “Renovating and giving new life to a historic building can be a daunting task and is not for the faint of heart. This type of challenge takes vision, outside-the-box problem solving, patience and public-private collaboration. Each of the Anson family renovations becomes a modern, up-to-date, multi-use center appropriate for business, retail and upper-story living while still paying tribute to the historical roots of the building. Current Grand Island businesses renovated by the Anson family include The Chocolate Bar, McKinney’s Irish Pub, Tower 217, GIX Logistics, and Prairie Pride Brewing. In addition to their for-profit efforts, Amos lends his time and talents to the Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity and HEAR Grand Island.”
Also on Wednesday, Smith honored the Urwiller family of Ravenna, who operate several businesses in the Ravenna area.
Other businesses honored by Smith include The Hub in Burwell and Blue Print Engines in Kearney.