Airports & economic development

Airports can do a great deal to drive economic activity.

They can help attract new companies to any area, but if they lack certain features, they can make an area less attractive to potential employers as well.

Airport managers from across the U.P. got together in marquette today to explain how that works.

Sawyer International Airport’s manager says his new airport is vastly different from the Gogebic–Iron County Airport in Ironwood, where he used to work.

Duane DuRay says he would describe Sawyer as a small city of its own, with any infrastructure features a potential employer could ask for.

Federal funding from the Essential Air Service program has an uncertain future, and it’s a worry for five of the U.P.’s six commercial airports.

Sawyer does not receive the funding, so its concerns have more to do with a decline in passenger traffic in the last two years.

DuRay says many people believe that passenger air service is like a public utility in that it would always be there, no matter what.

He says that’s not the case; in the current environment, airlines must turn a profit in the areas they serve or they’ll pack up and leave.

The presentation on U.P. airports was part of today’s U.P. Economic Development Alliance meeting.

The group meets every three months.