Airports Are Important Engines for Local Economic Growth

On Monday, Oct. 24, ACI-NA President Greg Principato posted the following blog on the National Journal website as part of its on-going debate on infrastructure funding.

Last week in North Carolina, President Obama visited Asheville Regional Airport and called for more investment in U.S. airports. These are welcome words for business leaders in Asheville, and for those of us who have watched American airports lag in the global race to attract more business and jobs for our communities.

Solutions to our nation’s infrastructure needs often come down to two: federal action and funding.  For airports it’s somewhat different in that the U.S. government actually stands in the way of airports and local communities who want and need to finance infrastructure.

The airports of this country are held back because the federal government regulates the financial lives of airports through a Nixon-era legislative framework that pre-dates airline deregulation and has long since lost its relevance.

The largest source of funding for improvements to local airports still comes from fees directly charged at those local airports. You pay these fees, in the form of a passenger facility charge, every time you buy an airline ticket. Yet, the federal government still controls how those fees are collected and what they can be spent on.

America’s airports are not requesting a bailout or any special favors. We are simply asking for outdated, ineffective policies to be removed and for local communities to be given greater say over their own future.

As President Obama said Monday in Asheville, “There’s no reason why we should sit here and watch the best highways and the newest airports being built in China. We should be building them right here in the United States of America. Right here in North Carolina.”

We agree with the President. The federal government needs to free local airports to generate their own resources in their own communities. This will empower local leaders to plan and build aviation facilities with money that stays in the community, and is not sent to Washington.

We offer this postscript to the president’s speech: It’s time to set our airports free. Give us same tools in use all over the world and watch what we can do.