Official touts airport’s potential

Increased air traffic is seen as an engine for regional development.
Thursday, July 12, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Randy Allen, president of the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, said Columbia Regional Airport is a potential major “player” in a new Central Missouri economic plan.

The Regional Economic Development District Law, or House Bill 741, which Gov. Matt Blunt signed into law on June 26, allows two or more governing bodies to create and encourage economic development within a district. It goes into effect Aug. 28.

Allen said the law establishes a formal regional framework to focus on marketing the area to outside business. The bill also allows for voters to decide on imposing a sales tax within the district and issues bonds to pay for project costs.

“This is a regional economic developmental entity,” Allen said. “The airport is just a resource when selling the area.”

The area discussed, Allen said, composes an area of 12 counties including Boone, Miller, Morgan, Cole and Cooper.

Through future increases in air cargo and commercial air service, Allen said the airport has potential to have greater economic development for the entire region, including Columbia, Jefferson City, Fulton and other Central Missouri communities.

“The airport can be a bigger player in this,” Allen said.

He said the marketing components include advertising, hiring consultants and creating a Web site.

Allen said plans for funding the effort will occur in the future.

“The plan has real potential, and I would like to see it happen,” Allen said.

He said no formal timeline exists to implement the plan.

“We are taking it one step at a time,” Allen said.

Allen said that by next year, he wants to develop an informal regionalization partnership with some counties in the Central Missouri region.

At the meeting, the board also passed a motion to encourage Columbia to invite private parties to subsidize additional commercial flights into and out of the airport.

Board member Bob Taylor said the airport needs more flights to Kansas City for passengers to make better connections. Taylor said the only way to get more flights is to buy them with private contributions.

“We need a quick fix to get better service and have increased frequency,” Taylor said.

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