The Liberty Gazette
March 25, 2008
March 25, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: When Linda and I were asked to address the Liberty-Dayton Chamber of Commerce on the value of our airport (thank you, Mary Anne Campbell) we jumped at the chance. Bill Gunn, Texas Dept. of Transportation’s Aviation Division, and Jay Carpenter, secretary and past president of the Texas Aviation Association flew in from Austin to join us.
General Aviation is important to Liberty County as an economic growth generator, even if you are not a pilot or ever go to the airport. General Aviation provides vital services to our community many of which we take for granted every day. Statistics that in and of themselves might have been meaningless, Bill and Jay presented in a light that spoke volumes to business owners and managers. With 46,000 pilots and 18,000 General Aviation aircraft in Texas, there’s money to be spent. Why not let them spend it in Liberty County?
Of the 330 public airports in Texas TxDOT is responsible for administration of FAA grant money used in the development of about 300 of those airports (the 30 big ones receive funds directly from the FAA). The key: when a community takes an interest in and backs the development of their community airport, TxDOT is right there to help. Using the formula tested at airports across the nation, with community and city management support, tremendous economic returns are proven.
In Texas alone, General Aviation creates $8.7 billion in economic activity and 61,900 jobs. In the U.S. it is a $900 billion industry and 11.3 million jobs. Currently the Liberty Municipal Airport generates about $219,000 in economic output but is capable of producing millions. Sulphur Springs airport now generates over $32 million annually. In their terminal building (built with grant money) is the “Wall of Fame” showcasing companies that have located facilities in Sulphur Springs, citing the airport as one of the key reasons.
Linda: Advertising on aviation websites such as www.100dollarhamburger.com, www.airnav.com, www.flyins.com, www.FlyinCalender.com, www.flylow.com, www.100LL.com draws customers to Liberty. Recently a couple from northern Louisiana looking for something fun to do for the weekend flew to Liberty to see The Sound of Music. They bought fuel, ate at JAX, and watched the play. They spent money and went home with a positive image of Liberty.
Former Liberty Police Chief, now Airport Manager, Leslie Wallace, has met a lot of folks who’ve flown in and needed a ride to town. Leslie knows the importance of making a good impression on visitors. He makes people feel welcome. However, a courtesy car made available to pilots and passengers is common and almost expected at community airports. Normally this car is provided by a local business or the managing entity of the airport to help further stimulate economic growth. We’d like to help other area businesses take advantage of a virtually untapped market.
Owners of restaurants, hotels, gift shops, retail outlets, car dealers, those in the entertainment business and others can find more customers by getting involved in supporting the success of the airport. Then everyone wins. Let us know if we can help your business attract those who fly.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.