The Alliance for Aviation Across America—which focuses on grassroots advocacy at the state, local, and federal levels—is continuing to expand its reach into rural areas with the addition of Betsy Huber to its board of directors. Huber is president of the National Grange, a family and community organization founded in 1867 that has roots in agriculture.
“Although you don’t really think of farmers [in connection with air travel], aviation is very important for farmers as well as rural residents,” Huber told AIN, noting that the industry plays a key role for rural areas by transporting goods, moving people, overseeing crops, and applying pesticides and fertilizers. For the Grange, participation in the Alliance “just seemed like a good fit,” she added.
Huber pointed to issues where her organization could collaborate with the Alliance, ranging from sustainability to air ambulance medical billing. “Farmers are the original conservationists,” she said, noting that there is strong support among them for sustainable alternative energy.
But in general, she said, “I’m hoping just to keep an awareness of rural issues for the Alliance and I’m hoping to learn a lot.”
For the Alliance, collaborating with the Grange enables it to bring its advocacy even deeper into the local levels.
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, who also serves as president of the Alliance board of directors, noted that the organization was created in 2007 with the understanding that general aviation serves a broad constituency. “A huge number of communities rely on this industry,” Bolen said. “The Alliance for Aviation Across America is an effort to reach out to mayors, city councils, economic development groups, and different industries that we have always known depend on general and business aviation as part of their transportation system and part of their economic engine.”
Over the past 15 years, he added, the Alliance has fostered a dialogue about the importance of aviation to jobs and local economies and encouraged broad policies that facilitate the industry.
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“Bringing in Betsy is another example of how important we are to the broad-based industries in the U.S.,” Bolen added, saying that aviation’s value is underscored by “having one of the foremost agricultural organizations step forward and say, ‘Yes, general aviation does matter to us. We do care about what it means to our transportation system, our economy, and, you can count on us to support it.’”
Added Alliance executive director Selena Shilad: “Over the years, hundreds of mayors and elected officials and local partners have weighed in on the importance of general aviation and local airports. The Grange has many chapters and members around the country, so I think it will be exciting to see how we can amplify and grow those efforts through that partnership.”