The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

June 6, 2014

City plans airport expansion

OTTUMWA — Changes at Ottumwa Industrial Airport could have a major impact on activity, especially if the city is able to secure two of its goals.

City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said plans are in place to extend the main runway. The runway, currently 5,900 feet, would be between 7,200 and 7,300 feet following this expansion.

Bigger plans will require federal assistance. Helfenberger told Rep. Dave Lobesack, who toured the airport Friday, the city wants to have a satellite customs office and duty-free designation for the airport.

The two are related but distinct economic development issues. Customs offices process and inspect goods coming into the United States. An office in Ottumwa would allow companies that use the airport to fly items directly to Ottumwa from outside the country. That saves them a stop on the way and could prove an attractive option for regional manufacturers.

Duty-free designation could grant exemptions from state and federal taxes for items that move through the airport. Again, that could prove a lure for companies that ship items internationally.

The combination could prove a game changer for the airport and significantly increase its ability to compete on a regional level.

“We’re hoping to become a regional cargo hub,” Helfenberger said.

Expansion of the runway comes first, though. The airport can currently handle anything up to a Boeing 757, officials said. Larger aircraft might be able to land now in an emergency, but extending the runway also extends the safety margin and allows larger routine traffic.

“Our big push right now is to get the airport expansion,” said Helfenberger.

Loebsack said he is unfamiliar with the process of securing either the duty-free designation or a satellite customs office but voiced support for exploration of both.

“I think it’s a really great idea, and I support this kind of economic development,” he said. “We’ll have to find out more about that.”

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