Small airport promotes big business

BIG RAPIDS — Mike Lafferty, airport manager and owner of Colt Avaition shared with city commissioners on Monday the changes Roben-Hood Airport has gone through since he got involved with it in 1995.

The core of his discussion centered around the economic impact the airport has in the area, from its fuel sales to hanger rentals, the airport supports the local economy, he said.

“We have industry that uses the airport and it’s important to keep it here,” Lafferty said.

A study done by the Michigan Department of Transportation was part of the presentation at the city commission retreat. The study revealed that airports are part of a larger transportation network throughout the state.

Business and airports are intertwined, Lafferty said, because traveling fast will not happen at a commercial airport. Aircraft can take people places faster than roads, he added.

“If you need to fly somewhere for a business conference and be home in time for supper, it will not happen with a commercial airline,” Lafferty said. “It can happen right here in Big Rapids and it does happen here many times over. Business representatives fly out and fly back in. If the airport wasn’t here, then their business wouldn’t get done here.”

Lafferty explained the airport supports the downtown businesses of Big Rapids.

“We promote the downtown businesses at the airport,” Lafferty said. “These pilots and their corporate representatives are our customers and we think of them as Big Rapids’ customers. They spend money here. They come here because they can build things here and they can get here because of the airport.”

Lafferty enjoys what he is doing at the airport and expressed to commissioners that more goes on at the airport than they may realize. The airport couldn’t do the things it does without the many generous supporters and the support of the community, he added.

He also presented to commissioners that it cost his company approximately $130,000 a year to operate the airport since adding the hanger owned by the city. Lafferty has a two-year contract with the city that runs through to Oct. 31, 2015.

“I’m not whining about it. I signed up for it and I like doing it,” Lafferty said. “I just want you to know this cost me something to have your hanger there. I like doing what I do, but I’m stretched financially. I cannot invest more and I would like to make a profit sometime.”

 

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Posted by Lonnie Allen

Lonnie is the Pioneer's city/county reporter. He also coordinates the Gardens and Growers page. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8328 or by e-mail at lallen@pioneergroup.com.

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