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William B. McKinley: Hagerstown Regional Airport a real boost to local economy

April 06, 2013|By WILLIAM B. McKINLEY

Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) is one of the many hidden gems of Washington County. It is a primary link between our rural communities and the national transportation system. This link is vital to the growth of our county because it contributes to the economic base by providing and supporting the air transportation needs of the Quad-State area. Plus we cannot ignore the fact that the airport:

• Costs very little to the taxpayer to operate.

• Plays a key role in workforce development.

• Provides passenger service but is also a job generator.

A recent study conducted by the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) detailed the economic impact of the 35 Maryland public-use airports. The study focused on the important roles airports play in stimulating local economies. HGR ranked third. The reason for the high ranking is because the airport contributes millions to the Washington County economy. In fact, HGR generated more than $109 million in business revenue and collected more than $7.4 million in state and local taxes. Additionally, the more than 1,300 people employed by businesses at the airport, such as Rider Jet Center, MAG Inc. and Sierra Nevada Corp., brought in total personal income of more than $74 million. (To view full report, visit the county’s website at www.washco-md.net)

Last week’s visit from U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski also highlights the importance of our airport. She visited Sierra Nevada Corp. and announced $43 million in federal funding for the manufacturing of enforcement aircraft that protect U.S. borders. This funding will help protect 200 local jobs. She also noted that she is working with other local politicians to reverse the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to close the control tower at HGR because it provides vital support for Camp David.

Hagerstown Regional Airport is home to the second-longest public-use runway in Maryland at 7,000 feet, behind Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Yes, the airport does provide passenger service, but that’s only a small part of what it does. There are more than 12 aviation-related businesses that call the airport home and the proximity to the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore corridor makes it a valuable resource for economic development and growth. This location is prime for additional aerospace and/or defense companies to add more high-tech, high-paying jobs.

The airport is growing and growing fast. Last year’s operations were at a 10-year high, more than 144,000 square feet of occupied building space has been added the past couple of years, and the airport’s favorable location is helping to attract new business. For example, the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics Aviation and Mechanics School entered into a long-term land lease with the county. Area residents will be able to take advantage of the specialized workforce training opportunities offered at this school. In return, it allows local businesses to hire highly skilled workers who graduate from the program.

The MAA report dispels the myth that the airport is nothing but an economic black hole by showing HGR has an impact of more than $109 million annually. This is a resource we as a county simply cannot lose. So, you can hopefully understand why we are committed to keeping the tower open, while the debate over budget sequestration continues. Additionally, we have seen how companies are willing to invest in our area, so it makes all the sense in the world for us to take advantage of this resource and the economic benefits it provides for us.


William B. McKinley serves on the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

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