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Project taking off

Airport runs away with business service

Airport runs away with business service

August 23, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown Regional Airport is trying to shed the perception that its main enterprise is commercial airline service.

The airport's commercial service, though consistent, hasn't been growing, airport Manager Carolyn Motz told the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday.

A U.S. Airways Express carrier, backed by a $650,000 annual federal subsidy, offers three daily flights from Hagerstown to Pittsburgh.

Before last year's news of the subsidy, the carrier, Air Midwest, was planning to pull out of the airport saying passenger flights weren't profitable.

But Motz said Tuesday the airport's other services - business, corporate and military dealings - have been taking off. With a continued effort to market its commercial service, the airport provides a diverse and attractive place to do business, Motz said.

"What we really are is, we're a business center," Motz said.

She expects the business, corporate and military services to continue increasing once a runway extension project is completed in December 2007.

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Motz attributed the growth to the County Commissioners approving the approximately $61 million project, which will extend the runway to 7,000 feet. It will extend over U.S. 11 when completed.

Since the extension's approval, some businesses have expanded, increasing the number of people employed by those companies from 500 to about 1,000, Motz said.

"You should really be very proud of what you've allowed to happen," Motz told the commissioners.

Sierra Nevada Corp. General Manager Hal Lucas agreed with the positive assessment of the airport.

The company's airport office is considering adding about 50 people to its payroll of 188 employees in the next couple of months, Lucas said.

He said the company needs to build more hangar space to increase its services.

The airport houses more than 40 businesses and 53 buildings. It operates on a $1.7 million budget, has a $50 million six-year capital budget, and its annual economic impact is $69.7 million, Motz said.

Businesses at the airport include Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada, Earth Data, Hagerstown Aircraft Services, Midwest Air Traffic Services, Eagle Air Flight School, Rider Jet Center and STAT MedEvac.

The range of services offered by the businesses include search, navigation, aeronautical systems, maintenance, repair and overhaul, and aviation services.

Corporate and military aircraft also play a role in the airport's finances through the purchase of fuel, Motz said.

The Department of Defense, for example, purchased 60,000 gallons of fuel from May 1, 2005 to Nov. 15, 2005. The airport receives 17 cents per gallon, Motz said.

Corporations also lease space, adding to the budget.

The airport's top corporate visitors include Wal-Mart, Target and Oshkosh Trucks, Motz said.

Motz and Greg Larsen, airport business development manager, said several businesses are considering building and expanding at the airport.

The future growth possibilities include the construction of a $5.5 million, 45,000-square foot-hangar; a $1 million, 8,100-square-foot hangar and an $8 million, 60,000-square-foot hangar and office complex.

"I think all of us would guess that the future is very bright for Hagerstown Regional Airport," Larsen said.

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