City Manager Bob Richardson said a municipal airport can add a lot to an area.
“An airport does tend to draw business activity,” Richardson said. “They aid in the development of commerce in a number of ways. Having a strong airport actually creates a healthier general economy.”
Richardson said one of the ways an airport can impact commerce is chief executive officers sometimes need to travel by air.
“That is why you see so many larger industrial parks based around airports,” he said.
Since 2008 Richardson said the city has added several new hangar rows and another is being planned right now. He said since then the airport has become the strongest growing municipal airport in Northern California.
Richardson said in the future more hangars can be added as demand warrants and the city is also hoping to add a new commercial area with airport-related businesses on some currently vacant land.
Richardson said it’s not apparent when the project would go forward.
“I can’t say yet,” he said. “We are basing it off of economic demand. We are in the preparation stages today so we are poised to take action when the market dictates.”
Larry Adair, chairman of the 5AC, which is an advisory group of airport users that discuss any changes or options for the facility with the city before they go back to City Council, said there have been some businesses that have packed up and moved from the airport, but he still thinks it is doing well.
“From my perspective, which is from other activities, primarily flying or things that have to do with flying at the airport, my opinion is the airport is doing pretty well considering the current economics of the country,” Adair said.
Adair said the airport is hoping to get more funding through the FAA for things like additional security, possibly in the form of more fencing.
Adair said although there have been a couple national companies that have moved away from the airport for one reason or another, the industrial park is trying to promote more business.
“It is a selling point and definite advantage to have an airport that is accessible, and this airport is accessible probably 85, 90 percent of the time,” he said. “Whereas the airports down in the valley … those are fogged in and they cannot fly in or out of them easily. So we have an advantage with the weather here for this airport.”
The move that needs to be made is finding companies who see the airport as an important selection item for their new business location, Adair said.
Robb Moore, chief executive officer of ioSafe, which designs disaster-proof data storage safes and is located in the airport business park, said, for him, the airport is a necessity.
“I moved to Auburn because of the airport,” Moore said. “I’m a pilot. I’m a business owner. I’m raising a family. The airport allows me to access business all around the state. It’s like an onramp onto a transportation system in the sky for me. So personally, when I’m doing business in the Bay, when I’m doing business in Southern California, or Vegas, or Phoenix or Seattle, I can take off from the Auburn Airport, have my meeting, fly back and be home for dinner, which is important when you have a family.”
Moore said there is a lot of empty business space right now, but he hopes to be filling some of it himself as his company continues to boom.
Moore said he thinks potential growth at the airport is all about how Auburn markets it, specifically to other business owners who, like him, moved from the Bay Area for the airport and foothills environment.
Derek Greenacre, a service coordinator for Century Lighting and Electric, located on Earhart Avenue, said he thinks the airport is more for enthusiasts and doesn’t really think it benefits the businesses there.
Greenacre said he thinks it’s great if the airport works as a business tool for Moore, but maintaining an airplane, renewing a license and the cost of fuel might be too high for some business owners.
Greenacre said he thinks the potential for growth at the airport depends on what types of businesses would go in there.
“I think this whole side of Auburn would need to grow,” he said. “There is a lot of wide open space.”
Greenacre said he doesn’t think the airport should go anywhere, because people enjoy flying in and out, but he doesn’t see it as a big economic draw.
Reach Bridget Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org