The Elkhart Municipal Airport has its share of critics.
When the city used nearly $4 million in federal stimulus money to repave the airport’s main landing strip in 2009, skeptics derided Elkhart Municipal as a plaything for the rich — a place of no benefit to most people in Elkhart.
This fall, during a city budget hearing, Republicans urged Mayor Dick Moore to consider leasing airport operations. If he didn’t, they suggested, they would be forced to rethink their support of Elkhart Municipal in next year. Moore said he was open to the idea.
Before we commission a management study or fund the airport for 2014, we need to answer a basic question: Is Elkhart Municipal an asset or liability to the city?
The answer: It’s an asset — $194.5 million asset.
The Indiana Airports Economic Impact Study, compiled by the Aviation Association of Indiana, Conexus Indiana and the Indiana Department of Transportation, looked at the way airport money resonated in communities. It assessed more than the earnings of companies that do business at airports, or their vendors, but how far that money spreads when employees buy groceries, pay for child care or take in a movie.
Elkhart Municipal supports jobs for 1,520 people, creating an economic impact of $194.5 million. Goshen’s airport generates another $11.8 million, although they study’s authors call that figure conservative.
We can — and should — study the possibility of outsourcing airport operations. We should weigh the potential savings and benefits.
But the Indiana Airports Economic Impact Study closes the book on at least one question — Elkhart Municipal Airport is a significant economic asset, and its efficient operation is crucial to the city’s future.