A proposed economic development tool could help some Ohio airports like the Dayton International Airport with infrastructure projects that could entice airlines.
The Ohio Senate Finance Committee is discussing legislation (Senate Bill 204) that would give airports in Dayton, Akron and Youngstown the ability to create economic development districts, with assessments from those districts going toward infrastructure projects.
The idea is to give airports a tool to encourage more flights.
The Dayton airport had 237,721 fewer passengers fly through the airport in 2018 than five years ago. In 2019, airport passenger enplanements are down 2%
Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, said a new version of the bill expands the purposes for which funds raised from assessments by the districts could be used to include attracting large capacity planes and more first-class seating.
The bill allows airport development districts to pool resources of property owners around the airport to help in infrastructure improvements, Gil Turner, interim director of Dayton International, said in an email.
“It would provide the city of Dayton with another tool to improve infrastructure around the airport and encourage business and air service development,” Turner said.
Through airport general counsel, Turner declined comment beyond that statement. Attempts to reach Schuring were not successful.
Chris Kershner — executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of a committee of area businesspeople who advise airport leaders — said he wants to learn more about the bill and its impact on future local investments.
“The Dayton airport has a been a strategic economic development partner in recruiting new companies and jobs to the Dayton region,” Kershner said. “Developers want shovel-ready sites, and shovel-ready includes quick access to utilities and infrastructure.”
The Ohio Senate Finance Committee had a second hearing on the bill this week. Stacey Heaton, executive director of the Ohio Aviation Association, said air service development deserves attention.
“Here is the crux of the issue: air service development funding must be viewed as an investment for the long-term viability of Ohio’s current and future potential businesses,” Heaton said in written testimony submitted to the committee. “Air service development funding must not be viewed as a one-and-done investment, but a longer-term investment for the success of the state.
Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel said the proposal would be good for development in the Youngstown area, according to written testimony he also submitted to the committee.
The Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport has not had commercial service since 2017 and the proposal would help it attract regular commercial service, Tressel also said.
Kent Scarrett, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League, also submitted written testimony in support of the bill.
“These (districts) would be used as a means to generate economic development and revenue for airport infrastructure improvements as well as other means of attracting airlines and increasing the number of flights in and out of an airport,” he wrote. “This would benefit surrounding communities as businesses can be influenced as to where to locate based on whether or not that local community is close to an airport. (Senate Bill) 204 would help Ohio and its local communities stay competitive with the rest of the nation in attracting and retaining air service.”
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