The state of Vermont is cranking up investments in its airports. For example, leaders say what was once a crumbling runway in Stowe is now a vehicle for economic development. Last year, the Morrisville/Stowe State Airport lost $21,900.
Airport officials and surrounding business owners are hoping a revamped airport will attract people to the area.
The Brass Lantern Inn Bed & Breakfast is located 3 miles down the street from the Morrisville/Stowe State Airport. It's owned by George and Mary Anne Lewis.
“In the 4.5 years we've been here, we had 1 guest that actually flew in and stayed here,” said George Lewis.
But he thinks the airport could be an avenue to boost his business. “If there's more opportunities for more people to come that way I think we will have that. Certainly, if you have the opportunity than it will occur," said Lewis.
That's what state leaders believe too. On Tuesday, they unveiled $20 million in upgrades to the Morrisville/Stowe Airport, an airport left basically untouched for 35 years.
“We've got a full-depth runway reconstruction now, beautiful. One of the best runways in America,” explained Governor Peter Shumlin (D – Vermont).
The lighting system and taxiing area are new, too, among other things. A new terminal, flight school, hangars and air chartering company are also in the works.
Developer Russell Barr saw the need 2 years ago and brought it to the state's attention. “I looked at the runway and I looked at the infrastructure and I saw a tremendous imbalance between one of the top resort communities in the country and a crumbling infrastructure airport,” said Russell Barr, who also contributed his own money to the project.
Between 5 - 10% of the $20 million investment is being paid for by Vermont taxpayers. That’s all part of a spike in the last 2-3 years in state investments in its airports.
State Aviation Program officials say just a few years ago, the state averaged between $2-3 million in total spending for its 10 airports.
Now, improvements in Stowe and upgrades planned at Rutland and Newport's state airports add up to almost $4 million. Federal money makes up the rest.
Back at his bed and breakfast, George Lewis hopes this investment will help others in the community soar.
“You can either let it crumble and pay for it anyway or you can invest in it and renovate it and get some benefit out of it," said George Lewis.
The state says it does not know how many people actually use these airports but do say the traffic is increasing. They measure it by how many gallons of fuel are sold.
As for the continued improvements at the airport, construction will begin on the new terminal sometime next year.