Lawton Airport among 108 aviation hubs injecting money into state economy | Business
Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport and other Oklahoma airports account for $ 10.6 billion in economic activity in the state.
Grayson Ardies, state director of aeronautics at the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, pointed out to members of the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce last week as part of an effort to highlight just how the aviation / aerospace is important to the state economy. Aviation / aerospace is second only to oil and gas – the state’s largest industry – as the driving force behind Oklahoma, contributing a total of $ 44 billion per year.
Ardies said that at Lawton, more than $ 55 million in economic activity and more than 500 direct or indirect jobs can be linked to the Lawton-Fort Sill regional airport.
“This airport is really a driving force and a stirrer in your community,” he said, adding that this is the main reason Lawton should continue to invest and support his airport.
Ardies said Lawton Airport has a major asset as it continues to be part of the aviation community’s efforts to expand its footprint. Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport has a concrete runway 8,599 feet long and 150 feet wide that can accommodate “just about any aircraft in the fleet,” he said. Airport manager Barbara McNally confirmed that the airport recently hosted three 777s and also hosts C-17s as part of its work with the military.
“Our airport is there to support whatever needs to be done,” she said.
Lawton Airport is one of four commercial airports in Oklahoma, and these four airports together with 104 general aviation airports represent $ 10.6 billion in economic activity. Ardies said aviation supports more than 206,000 jobs in Oklahoma, including about 120,000 directly employed in aerospace and defense.
This economic engine – which is not subject to boom and bust cycles in oil and gas – is why the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission supports aviation and aerospace, and urges local communities to do so. likewise. Ardies said the commission has four main missions: airports, ensuring a viable system of public airports (the reason the commission helped fund Phase I of the Lawton Regional Airport Terminal Expansion- Fort Sill); aerospace; Workforce; and aviation safety standards.
Airports are a crucial part of economic development, Ardies said.
“Give me a mile of track and I can take you anywhere in the world,” he said.
There are a variety of airports in the southwestern quadrant of the state, he said. In addition to Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport, Henry Post Field at Fort Sill, and Altus Air Force Base, there are airfields at Duncan, Anadarko, Walters, Chattanooga, Altus, Tipton and Carnegie. In total, Oklahoma has 5,716 general aviation aircraft in flight and nearly 9,600 pilots.
Traditional aviation is only part of the picture. Aerospace is increasingly important, with links to military and commercial entities.
“There hasn’t been a better time to get involved in aerospace,” Ardies said, adding that the effort is helped by the fact that the Governor of Oklahoma is a pilot who can fly a variety planes, while Senator Jim Inhofe, with decades of flying experience, frequently identifies as “a pilot first”.
Oklahoma also has a number of state lawmakers who are pilots or strongly support aerospace and aviation, which has manifested itself in recent years by cooperating with the work of the Aeronautical Commission of the Oklahoma to protect military airspace from large structures. Ardies said the three-year effort ended in 2019 with legislation that allows wind power installations and military installations to live together and thrive.
These activities need support, which is why Ardies calls on local communities to support aviation through efforts such as training and providing a workforce that supports aviation and aerospace.
“The workforce is the lifeblood of any industry, but especially of us. We need your help to encourage young people to make aviation a career choice, ”he said, adding that the commission is backing this effort with a program that encourages schools to teach aviation related programs. aviation and provide funds for these efforts. “The commission needs career aviation evangelists.”
Lawton is well positioned to capitalize on aviation, Ardies said, indicating a runway that can accommodate all manner of planes and nearby land available for development.
“Airports are synonymous with business,” he said.