Regional Air Spots Beneficial

April 14, 2008
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Sacrifice becomes even more challenging in times of economic stress. It’s also during these periods that it becomes vital to embrace opportunities that could hold future economic slumps at bay. The greater Holland community appears to have such a plan at hand, and it merits serious consideration.

On May 6, voters in the cities of Holland and Zeeland and in Holland and Park townships will be asked to approve a 0.1-mill, five-year levy to support the West Michigan Airport Authority’s operation of Tulip City Airport. If approved in all four governmental units, the new tax would generate about $384,000 in its first year toward operations and capital improvements.

Currently, the airport receives about $163,000 toward airport operations through land leases, landing fees and a franchise fee paid by Tulip City Air Service, which contracts with Holland to operate the airport. The “average taxpayer” could pay no more than $10 per year if the millage is approved. Businesses of all sizes also would pay the tax, an investment that would help firm up the community’s economic underpinnings, logically benefiting owners and workers at those firms.

A coalition of business leaders in the Holland-Zeeland area maintain that the area’s ability to retain and create jobs would be enhanced by improvements at Tulip City. The issue is connectivity — providing a secure link to global business relationships in a fast-paced, customer-focused environment. More than 20,000 employees work for companies that use Tulip City as part of their business operations. These are workers representing a vital cog in the economic well-being of the lakeshore communities. Preserving those jobs, and pursuing potential new ones, is a top priority for economic developers and business recruiters.

The airport authority and Lakeshore Advantage produced a report last fall identifying 150 firms across the U.S. that might do business in the lakeshore area or be potential candidates for locating in a community that has a serviceable air facility to conduct their affairs. The report also analyzed four other airports in communities the size of the Holland area. It showed Tulip City Airport compared favorably to those airports in most areas, but fell short on business offerings because it has the smallest terminal and few business amenities.

While the business and commerce landscape is global in nature, preserving and enhancing facilities such as Tulip City remains very much a regional linchpin. CEOs and corporate executives are not the only ones jetting in and out of these regional transportation centers. Workers representing every function — from repairman, to accountant, to human resource and customer relations roles — are connecting quickly and efficiently through transport that originates from airstrips equipped to handle today’s technology and air travel regulations.

Business people are increasingly venturing into owning and operating private planes or corporate jets, making regional airports more valuable for their access and egress. This reality comes at a time when regional airport expansion projects such as that sought by Tulip City supporters are often unfairly criticized. These facilities will continue to play an important economic role and should not be viewed as being burdensome to their communities or to the ability of larger metropolitan facilities to effectively serve their population base.

Securing Tulip City’s place as an economic driver is up for consideration.

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