April 20, 2014

Airport projects can benefit local economy

I was pleased and surprised to read recently that the Laurentian Aerospace discussion continues on. This is a community for which hope springs eternal, and I keep my fingers crossed that the stars will someday align.

Meanwhile, the Clinton County Airport continues to aspire. While there have been some ups and downs as airlines come and go, the trajectory remains upward. Airlines know Plattsburgh is the perfect place from which to tap into the huge Montreal market. Canadians love to travel but hate their expensive airlines and their high airport taxes. Every year, more and more of them discover our airport.

At first, few imagined the potential. In perfect 20/20 hindsight, it might have been best to build an airport facility larger than almost anybody had argued, and perhaps also add an international facility so that charters and scheduled flights could travel between here and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and even Europe.

As the airport attains its critical mass, it may even allow something many of us want — flights to a major local hub like New York, Newark or even Philadelphia or Detroit. While air transportation for Clinton Countians may not be the most strategic consideration, it is certainly the one we feel most directly.

The airport can pay for itself, and then some. It earns fees from landings, facilities usage and parking. Some of the assets the Air Force left, from hangars to buildings, ramps and tarmac, are rented out now. Others can be rehabilitated and leased out in the future to generate more local jobs and economic activity.

To succeed, the airport must be run as a business. A private enterprise spends and invests to generate new revenue streams. Government rarely views things that way. After all, in our state, raising revenue was once as simple as raising taxes.

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