June 18, 2008

Runway Spending in Allen: Airport Pooling Money, Using Grant to Extend Strip for Larger Planes

By Bart Mills, The Lima News, Ohio

Jun. 18--PERRY TOWNSHIP -- Economic development folks will tell you, when it comes to runways, size matters.

Allen County Airport officials are gathering funds with the hope of extending their current 5,100-foot runway by another 1,400 feet. Airport Board President Jon Neuman said the more than $4 million project is an investment in the region's economic future.

"A lot of the big businesses that come to this region come in through the airport. It's important that we make a good first impression," Neuman said.

The expansion project will be broken into two parts -- a $1.9 million excavation project that will begin this fall, and about $2.4 million in paving to take place next year. The airport board received a $1.18 million federal grant to begin the work and has asked commissioners for $59,350 to make its required match for the grant. Board members expect to receive another federal grant to help pay for the second leg of the project.

"We're in line for it. Typically, once they've started the project they follow through," Neuman said.

The board originally planned to take the runway to 6,000 feet, but decided later to add another 500 feet to accommodate some of the larger charter planes using the field. It will have to raise another $700,000 to pay for the additional 500 feet.

"We're meeting with [state Sen.] Keith Faber and [state Rep.] Matt Huffman and other political groups to see what they can do to help," Neuman said.

The runway extension is just one of many improvements made to the airport in recent months. It recently added a new instrument landing system and Global Positioning System approach, making it easier for planes to land in poor visibility. It also offers fuel sales, plane rental and has added flight training for would-be pilots.

Neuman said the improvements are all investments in the long-term viability of the airport and in the economic development of the 11-county region it serves.

"People aren't really aware of the executives and businesses we can attract through the airport. It's an important part of what we offer as a county and for the whole region," Neuman said.

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