Airport provides economic impact

Chad Frey
cfrey@thekansan.com
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., visits the Newton City/County Airport on Friday afternoon.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., made a stop Friday afternoon in Newton, wanting to take a look at the Newton City/County Airport where federal grant funds are being spent.

Moran announced about $70,000 in CARES Act funds for the airport, along with $570,000 in additional funds.

“I recognize the importance of the airport, and I assume you can tell me how important this airport is to this community,” Moran said. “I am just trying to get a feel for what is going on here and how I can be of help.”

According to administrator Brian Palmer, the latest grant will be used, with additional grant and supplemental aviation funds, to rebuild the main taxiway that was first constructed during World War II.

“Had it not been for the $7.5 million in supplemental funding, we would not be able to do (the main) taxiway. It is falling apart. It is in horrible shape. We have done everything we can to piecemeal it together, but it needs a full reconstruction,” Palmer said. “A $7.5 million project, it would have been a burden for the community, either of the municipalities, to pay for.”

The airport is operated jointly by the city of Newton and Harvey County.

Previous CARES Act funds were used for operational funds.

“This airport provides $157 million in economic impact to this community, it is huge,” Palmer said. “Considering that we have no commercial traffic, that is a big deal.”

Palmer said there are more than 400 people employed on the airport campus, and that number has remained stable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are stimulating the economy right now, they are all essential workers and they are still working. There have been no layoffs among these companies out here,” Palmer said.

And he announced a new business just last week, a company that will rent a hangar and offer private pilot instruction to the general public.

Park Aerospace, which opened a facility at the airport in 2008, is expanding its building and intends to hire more employees when that work is complete.

The airport houses more than 100 planes, mostly privately owned aircraft. The airport relies on general aviation. There is only one airport in Kansas, according to Palmer, that relies on commercial traffic.

“This is where we need to support,” Palmer said. “The more money that is there for little guys like us, the more we can use it to support our economy. Between entitlement funding and grant funding over the last five years we will have paved every runway and every taxiway using the money when we could.”

The airport is the third business in Kansas, behind Wichita Eisenhower and Salina. That traffic is due in part to the number of manufacturers and commercial properties on the airport campus in addition to the private pilots who keep their planes at the airport.