Growing aviation – rural airports receive funding to improve airport safety and boost economic growth

Local

ULYSSES, Kan. (KSNW) – KDOT’s division of aviation is working toward growing the aviation industry by improving public access airports. It’s called The Kansas Airport Improvement Program (KAIP), it pays for improvements at more than 130 public airports around the state. 

“Right now we produce $20.6 billion dollars of economic impact just from aviation. We have 91,300 people building airplanes spread out across the state. New opportunities can be made very readily in small-town Kansas just they can in a larger city,” said Bob Brock, State of Kansas Director of Aviation.

Funded through Governor Laura Kelly’s IKE program, the renovations aim to improve flight safety and bring positive economic impact to the region with an emphasis being on rural areas. 

“If we are going to further build a robust aviation community and a network of capabilities that really can feed more economic growth then we’ve got to cover every zip code,” said Brock.

Priority is given to airport improvements that will deliver the most significant impact to the entire state. Most projects focus on flight safety and/or and economic impact for the region.

Upgrades include runway repairs and extensions, added security, and new fueling systems to name a few.

The total investment will be $5 million dollars annually, put toward keeping the lifeline of the region connected.

“Airports in a rural community are perhaps more powerful and represent a larger impact than might be realized in a larger community,” said Brock.

This year the KAIP selected 32 projects across the state. Each recipient must share in the project costs by paying a minimum of 5% of the total project. 

Nearly a dozen airport renovation projects granted by the KAIP are set in rural western Kansas. 

The Grant County Airport outside of Ulysses will be the largest funded project selected for the 2021 cycle. 

“Changes for the airport are always exciting. As long as we can move our airport forward consistently then I think we’re in the driver’s seat for the community to have one of the best airports in southwest Kansas,” said Steve Rice, Grant County Airport Manager. 

The aviation hub is vital to the region.

It caters to spray planes, oil and gas companies, cattle and feedlot operations, local charter planes, and medical air ambulances.

“The economics going from the airport standpoint is you know, access,” said Rice.

The airport is set to receive nearly $1 million dollars in funding to redo the runway and replace its edge lights.

“We put a great deal of emphasis on making certain that the airports in western Kansas truly is fully capable,” said Brock. 

An improved airport could mean new jobs and new businesses, a lifeline for rural areas.

“As for business-wise, and items like that then that’s huge economic value to our community,” said Rice.

For more information on the funding, click here.

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