Huron County still skeptical about regional airport

NORWALK Erie County officials are excited about the idea of building a regional airport in the area,
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Erie County officials are excited about the idea of building a regional airport in the area, but Huron County officials aren't sold on it yet.

"They may have made some assumptions early on that we would just readily be a part of it," Huron County Commissioner Gary Bauer said. "But I don't think that's the case now. They know we have to have our questions answered."

Erie County Commissioners are hoping to obtain federal funding to help build a larger airport to serve NASA Plum Brook Station. The Federal Aviation Administration says it can't fund two airports within 30 miles, so the Huron County Airport in Norwalk could stand in the way of Erie County's plans.

Bauer said Huron County won't give up its airport license unless it sees how a regional airport will have tangible benefits for Huron County's economy.

"If you talk to me, Ralph (Fegley) and Mike (Adelman), you're going to get three different answers as to what that means," Bauer said referring to his fellow Huron County commissioners. "I don't have a number, but I would like to see a possibility of six to 10 spin-off businesses, three of which would be in Huron County."

Bauer said his board has been waiting for months for an FAA report on the effects a regional airport would have.

He said Huron County wants specific answers, not speculation, on what a regional airport would do for its local economy.

"We need those people to come up with numbers to tell us something," he said. "If NASA hires 80 people, what would be the ballpark figure? Would 30 of those people build homes in Huron County?"

Consulting firm Reynolds, Smith & Hills, Inc. presented a feasibility study to Erie County and Huron County officials last week, saying a regional airport would cost between $50-60 million.

Erie County Commissioner Tom Ferrell estimates the regional airport would bring $25 million in economic growth to the region, some of which would go to Huron County.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and the Greater Cleveland Growth Partnership are also on board with the idea.

Ferrell said his board plans to make an economic offer to Huron County officials in exchange for their cooperation.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership will host a presentation on the mutual economic benefit the airport would have for the region at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Kalahari Indoor Waterpark.

Ferrell hopes it will help persuade Huron County officials.

"We understand their situation," he said. "We've always envisioned that will be a partnership between us and Huron County."

But Ferrell didn't rule out going around Huron County officials to make the airport happen if they refuse to go along with the deal.

"I'm not envisioning that answer," he said. "They have a community which has a very high unemployment rate. This is an opportunity where both counties can benefit."