AUBURN CA – Pilot and former Auburn City Councilman O.C. Taylor looks out the window of a crowded, noisy Wings Restaurant on a recent Friday and sees both the past and a hopeful future for the Auburn Airport.
The Auburn Airport and adjoining 80-acre industrial park are seen by both city of Auburn and Placer County officials as job, growth and tax-base generators.
When Taylor, a lifelong Auburn resident, looks out onto the runway as he awaits his lunch, he does so with the eyes of someone who can remember as a high schooler taking off in an airplane during the 1940s from a dirt runway.
Today, the dirt runway is a distant memory. The airport handles hundreds of planes weekly on a paved and recently upgraded runway, surrounded by gleaming new hangar buildings and adjacent to an 80-acre industrial park.
Taylor said that he’s watched the airport and surrounding area develop over the past 60 or more years, and while he regrets more work hasn’t been done to allow more industrial space on the east side of the airport to provide even more room to grow, the future looks good.
“But they’re doing a pretty good job,” Taylor said. “And the financial contribution to the city (from tax revenues) is quite high – about $2 million a year.”
Dave Snyder, Placer County Office of Economic Development director, said the airport fits neatly into the county Economic Development Board’s planning roadmap.
“We are bullish on the Auburn airport,” Snyder said. “If you look at the industry targets in the road, the industrial park already hits several areas, including emerging industries, technology, research and development firms, and advanced manufacturing.”
Snyder said a good example of growth at the airport has been Miltenyi Biotech.
“They’ve taken a piece of the Coherent complex and tripled their space,” he said. “Someday they may start manufacturing there too.”
The Auburn Airport sits on a 285-acre parcel surrounded by unincorporated Placer County land in North Auburn.
At 1,500 feet, the runway is above the fog most of the year and a destination for amateur pilots as well as business people flying in and out.
Mark McBride was readying his 1960 Piper Comanche for an air show in Rancho Murieta. As he pumped gas, he observed that the airport has had slow periods but has been going through a period of extreme popularity.
Snyder said that the popularity for not only the brunch-and-lunch weekend fly-ins but for business people can’t be under-estimated. Placer County has two other airports within its boundaries – one in Lincoln and the other in Tahoe-Truckee that is shared with Nevada County.
“Some counties don’t have an airport at all serving the general aviation community,” Snyder said. “It’s very important for development and having an airport is a fairly unique amenity. And it adds a nice lifestyle component.”
Auburn City Councilwoman Bridget Powers, who currently serves as chair of the Placer County Economic Development Board, said the airport and the industrial park will be the focus next Oct 12 of an event called the Auburn Airport Industry 2012 that is intended to shine the spotlight on what a good fit it could be for out-of-town businesses considering relocating.
“We’re going to try to get business owners from the Bay Area and Los Angeles to see the airport and the lifestyle,” Powers said.
Local business owners will tell their success stories at a breakfast and then Sacramento media personality and financial consultant Kelly Brothers will report on the local economic picture at a lunch.
Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson said the airport and industrial park will get a less formal showing July 7 when the Thunder in the Sky air show returns.
Richardson said the airport has had several recent successes, including the development of a burgeoning film industry, with the presence of the largest green screen outside of Hollywood that attracts production companies on a regular basis.
The airport has also recently completed construction on three rows of hangars and all have been sold, he said.
“There has been additional developer interest to continue development of the hangar area,” Richardson said.
Richardson said that recent efforts have laid a foundation for the future at the airport that looks bright and is continuing to be shaped by a supportive community.