Lewis Airport Seeks Funds for Expansion
November 11, 2011
By Laura Katauskas
In an attempt to increase Lewis University Airport's stature as an executive corporate airport and bring economic growth to the area, local politicians sought the help of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hoping to attract additional Fortune 500 companies and stimulate further growth, the airport would like to indulge in long-term plans for a $4.8 million project to repair and expand its second runway. In addition, the ideal goal would also be to receive funding for an air traffic control tower, which the airport currently does not have.
Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) brought Christa Fornarotto, the FAA's Associate Administrator for Airports to Lewis University Airport to meet with local officials and discuss plans for the airport's future.
"Lewis University Airport is a great asset in northwestern Will County and already serves as an economic engine for the area," Rep. Lipinski said. "But it has the potential to make an even greater contribution to local economic development and job creation, and as a senior member of the House Transportation Committee and the Aviation Subcommittee I want to make sure it fulfills that potential."
Romeoville Mayor and Joliet Regional Port District Board Member John Noak agreed saying that with the proper time and investment, the Lewis Airport could become the premier executive airport for "not just Will County but all of Chicagoland."
"We have been targeting more Fortune 1000 companies and are tracking that as an economic tool and that has been one of our goals," said Noak. "This is really about a partnership with all of our neighbors in Will County to attract such companies and help grow this area as a transportation hub. Our location is a great asset."
Rep. Lipinski is working to help pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill that provides significant funding for the FAA's airport improvement program, which is the funding source for the planned reconstruction of Lewis University Airport's first runway. This runway dates to 1990 and must be reconstructed to continue accommodating larger aircraft. Passage of a long-term bill would prevent a repeat of the partial FAA shutdown that occurred over the summer and hampered numerous airport projects.
Owned and operated by the Joliet Regional Port District, Lewis University Airport accommodates 105,000 arrivals and departures annually. Its convenient location near three major interstate highways in a fast-growing area has attracted numerous Fortune 500 and other corporate aircraft users and makes it a key selling point for the region as it seeks to attract further economic development and jobs.
The airport annually serves as the host airport for the 100 sponsor, driver, and race team aircraft that are used in the two racing weeks run at Chicagoland Speedway. Other regional events supported by the airport include the National Hot Rod Drag Racing at Route 66 Raceway and the Western Open Golf Championship.
"FAA support and funding are critical for the future of Lewis University Airport," Rep. Lipinski said. "I am going to continue to work to make sure that we invest in the airport to make it a magnet for regional development. With unemployment stuck at 9 percent, we need to be doing everything we can to attract jobs in both the short term and the long term."
Fornarotto told the group, "This is a first good step in making sure this airport becomes a greater asset to the region. It is prudent to be planning for future expansion and to use this as an economic engine. I look forward to continued dialogue and working on this vision."
The Lewis University Airport is Will County's only corporate airport and is owned and operated by the Joliet Regional Port District. The Port District operates without the use of a tax levy. It has improved the facility by the use of Revenue Bonds and Municipal investment contributions, supplementing operating revenues collected from airport users/tenants.
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