HIBBING — Chisholm-Hibbing Airport officals got a double dose of good news Thursday.
In addition to being announced a grant recipient, Hibbing was named the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Air Service Dvelopment Zone” — a designation given to only one airport community each year. The designation serves to highlight a community’s resources and committement to the development of it’s aviation- and airport-related businesses, services and economic opportunites.
Dave Danielson, executive director of the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport, made the case for DOT officals in his application for the Small Communities Air Service Development Program. In it, he outlined the region’s poise, preparations and incentives for economic development.
That charisma and drive was something that came through loud and clear to DOT officials.
“We were impressed by Hibbing’s plan,” said Karan Bhatia, DOT’s assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs. “Given the 120 acres with infrastructure for future development and the Minnesota legislature’s designation of a JOB Zone, we felt that all of that combined with the existing plans made Hibbing stand out.”
Having close promixty to rail and road access were also selling points, he said.
The designation is expected to create a unqiue relationship and communication between the DOT and Hibbing. The two entites are anticipated to work together to attract businesses to the area surrounding the airport, to develop land use options for other areas of the community and act as a link with other federal govermental agencies.
While Danielson said he could picture a lot of potential benefits of the new partnership, Bhatia said most of it’s up to us. “A lot of it depends on the local community and what they’re willing to bring to the table,” he said. “Becasue it’s not additional funding, there has to be a strong commitment. Combing this with the $485,000 grant, we’re very optimistic that Hibbing will become a success story.”
Bhatia also made the case for what — if anything — Hibbing can do for them. He said they look foward to learning from our experience in the air service field.
“Given this is a relatively new program, we’re still trying to find out what the needs of small community airports are,” he said. “One of the key things is we hope to get out of this grant is a greater understanding of what ‘s working and what’s not.”
He said the department is also intriuged by the possibiity that this grant program may helping small community airports to separate themselves from the DOT’s Essential Air Service Program. The EAS program is three-year federal subsidy on which many small airports, including Chisholm-Hibbing operate on. Past airports designated as “Air Service Development Zones” include those in Alabama, Augusta, Ga., and Waterloo, Iowa.
Source: Hibbing, MN Daily Tribune
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