Councilors get crash course in economic development

EDP director: Moffat County Airport improvements could lead to business opportunities

Investing in upgrades to the Moffat County Airport is an investment in economic development Craig City Council members were told Tuesday night.

But the level of that investment is not yet known.

County representatives, airport advisory board members and consults were on hand to present a draft of the airport's master plan.

The plan identifies the airport's current level of use and its potential level of use. Minor upgrades and the right marketing strategy could take the small facility from an annual use of 8,500 takeoffs and departures to 15,000.

Suggested alterations include extending the runway from 5,600 feet to 7,500 feet and building a full-length taxi runway alongside to start.

"Airport issues can be complex, political and financial, but what you have to do is view it as an economic asset and determine what the economic impacts of that can be," Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership Director Tom Flavin told the council. "It's a real opportunity for us from an economic development standpoint."

The airport's master plan is months from completion and what the council heard was an update on the progress and goals.

"We hope it can pay for itself eventually," master plan consultant Jim Sirhall said. "That's our goal. We may never achieve it, but that's our goal."

The plan includes a capital improvement schedule, financing options and a marketing strategy.

Capital needs listed were additional hangars, a thicker runway, an additional apron, access to city utility services, improved storage the development of an industrial park near the airport and improved radio communications.

"Having city services is going to become a factor as we try to mark the airport for additional uses," Sirhall said. "There are a lot of ways we could do that."

There were no requests made, just information presented and council members had little response. The focus was on the economic development potential.

"We're trying to identify other things you can do with your airport to draw business," Sirhall said.

Councilor Tom Gilchrist, who represents the city on the airport advisory board said it's important to provide a professional facility with professional services offered at fair prices.

"Businesses will come if we provide the service," he said.

Eventually, the city will be asked for financial participation and to adopt ordinances the protect zoning around the airport, but at this early stage, nothing formal was presented.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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