The Springfield-Branson National Airport is expanding its general aviation complex to make room for more private aircraft. KSMU's Theresa Bettmann reports about why this could be a boost for the local economy.
Next month, the airport will begin to expand and change its general aviation complex. Kent Boyd is a spokesperson for the airport.
"General aviation, which is the broad term to describe private plane owners, is something that I think the public in general isn't aware of. It's sort of out of sight, out of mind. The public tends to think of commercial air service. But private aviation is just as important from an economic point of view, because it's the mode of transportation that big companies and corporations use. It's something they look for in a community when they are considering a move to a community," says Boyd.
There's has been a shortage of available space for private planes here for years, Boyd says.
The expansion will clear the land for eight hangars, as part of the first phase. That's expected to be finished this fall. This first phase will cost around $5.6 million, with $5 million of that coming from a MoDOT grant funded by taxes on aviation fuel. The airport will cover the remaining balance.
"What it's going to do is take about 12 acres of land at the airport that's north of the old airline terminal—clean it up, get rid of all of the old utilities and make it ready for new airline hangars that can be used by corporate airplanes," Boyd says.
Once the work is done, plane owners can lease the hangar-ready lots from the airport and then build their own hangars.
Jeff Seifried is manager of regional development with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. He says the airport is "the welcome mat to the city," since potential business and corporations get their first glimpse Springfield there.
"A healthy airport and air facilities has a direct impact on the economy. So we're very excited about these improvements and we know without a doubt that it'll have an impact on our local economy," Seifried says.
Experts say general aviation at the airport will likely go up about two percent a year for the next 20 years. If there's enough demand, the airport will take on a second phase that would make room for six more hangars. Funding for the second phase has not yet been secured.