Redding, CA. – Airport is Area Economic Engine

Economic engine: Airport chief sees growth through jobs, flight services
Monday, April 30, 2007
Economic engine: Airport chief sees growth through jobs, flight services
By Marc Beauchamp
The Redding (CA)
Record Searchlight

Airliner at Redding

When most people think of Redding Municipal Airport, they probably think of it as a starting place in getting from here to wherever. When Rod Dinger thinks of the airport, however, he thinks of jobs and the facility?s role as an engine of the north state economy.

The 1,750-acre airport in southeast Redding, which dates to 1947, is a $50 million-a-year enterprise, said Dinger, who?s managed the facility since 1995. He previously worked at airports in Long Beach and San Diego. There are about 450 jobs directly related to the airport ? the airlines, rental car companies, cargo operators, aircraft maintenance outfits, refueling operations and pilot training, he calculated.

The city?s Airports Division, headed by Dinger, a 45-year-old Laguna Beach native and pilot, is based at the airport and employs 11. On top of that, it contracts with six armed North State Security officers (separate from employees of the Federal Transportation Safety Administration). Three Redding firefighters work out of the new Fire Station No. 7 at the airport. The airport?s annual operating budget for the current fiscal year is $4.4 million. Next year, reflecting a host of capital improvement projects, it?s expected to balloon to $5.5 million.

To illustrate the airport?s role as an economic driver, Dinger describes Federal Express? ?morning sort? ? a ritual that occurs at 7:30 a.m. every weekday: Some 24 trucks converge on Fed Ex?s facility just south of the terminal building, receiving cargo taken from two Cessna Caravan aircraft that fly between Redding and Sacramento. The same process takes place in reverse in the late afternoon.

Redding Municipal, one of 435 commercial airports in the country, generates revenue for the city of Redding from a number of sources, including landing fees. Last year, it paid the city $110,000 in ?fuel flowage fees? on the nearly 1.6 million gallons of aviation gas and jet fuel sold at the facility. Jet fuel recently fetched $4.05 a gallon, aviation gas $4.65.

The airport is home to 180 planes ? from general aviation aircraft to helicopters and corporate jets. Last year, rental car companies paid the city $180,000 and handled nearly 12,000 rentals. Avis generated nearly $1.2 million in gross sales last year at the airport, Hertz about half that. The airport?s 330-space parking lot generated $405,149 in revenue. The airport started charging for parking in 1992 ? current rates are $1.25 for the first hour, $6.50 for the day and $39 a week.

Cargo carriers ? FedEx, United Parcel Service and DHL ? handled nearly 4 million pounds of cargo last year at Redding Municipal.

The airport?s passenger traffic, which nose-dived after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, recovered to pre-9/11 levels for the first time last year. In 2006, more than 133,000 passengers moved through Redding Municipal. United Express? passenger count (39,413 last year) remains far below the 53,753 reached in 2000, reflecting the carrier?s 40 percent reduction in capacity ? it?s down to five flights a day between Redding and San Francisco, from nine before 9/11, reflecting United Airlines? financial problems and reduced operations.

On the other hand, Horizon?s traffic has doubled, to 25,056 last year, thanks to twice-daily flights to Los Angeles, inaugurated two years ago.

Besides passenger flights, the airport handles gambling charters to Nevada and charter flights moving smoke jumpers around the West during fire season. ?When there?s a lot of fires, it can affect our revenue stream,? Dinger said.

Getting more flights to more destinations is a top priority of Dinger?s. A marketing survey conducted in 2003 found that only 42 percent of the people flying out of the six-county ?catchment area? served by Redding Municipal actually used the facility. The rest drive to Sacramento or other airports. Of this ?leakage,? Dinger determined that Los Angeles was the top destination. He then took this data to executives at Horizon. Still it took time ? about two years ? to convince the airline to expand its Redding service.

?You need to be determined and persistent, and you have to show them a formula that makes sense for them,? Dinger said of the air carriers. ?We?re competing with 30 to 40 similar cities across the country for a couple of planes.?

He?s now trying to convince United to begin service between Redding and Denver and Delta to start Redding-Salt Lake City flights.

For Dinger, it?s all about economics. ?Air service is hand in hand with good economic development,? he said. The airlines are ?intrigued? about the prospects of Stillwater Business Park due to be built nearby, Dinger said, whose desk looks out at the airport?s north end and boasts a commanding view of snow-capped Mt. Shasta.

Bottom line

? What: Redding Municipal Airport

? Where: 6751 Woodrum Circle, Suite 200, Redding

? Manager: Rod Dinger

? Employees: About 450

? Established: 1947

? Phone: 224-4321

? Web site: www.reddingairport.net

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