Feburary 2, 2012

For 20 years, Mayor Dan McArthur of St. George, UT has prodded, pleaded and pushed every city, state and federal official he could to help his city build a new airport. Last year, he got his wish, presiding at the ribbon-cutting for the new St. George Municipal Airport (SGU) on January 13.

The new general aviation (GA) airport features a 9,300 foot runway that can accommodate all types of business airplanes, and aircraft of all descriptions can be found on the new FBO’s ramp. According to new manager Richard Stehneier, the number of airplanes on his runway has already risen by about 10 percent over previous years at the old airport. Stehmeier is assembling a portfolio of opportunities for business development on the airport and expects to launch it on the airport’s web site soon.

“I can tell you that our new airport is really well-situated to help us with economic development,” said Mayor McArthur. “There are a lot of business people here who depend on the airport. In fact, several companies that aren’t even based here in St. George decided to build their own hangars on our new airport just because they fly their business airplanes in and out so much.”

Scott Hirschi, executive director of the Economic Development Council for surrounding Washington County, said the airport opening has unleashed a flood of inquiries from businesses asking about relocating or starting up in the St. George area. “I’m the busiest I’ve been in four years,” he said. “The companies I work with are ones that can relocate anywhere. Some are looking at transportation more than others, but the airport is part of the attraction.”

Hirschi said that he’d had only one client specifically interested in opening a business on the new airport, but that all of the serious queries asked about being able to get their staff and customers in or out of St. George without driving to a distant major city.

Over the years, Mayor McArthur has helped the city grow using his own business airplane. McArthur co-owned a turbocharged Cessna 206 and often used it to fly to the state capital of Salt Lake City to lobby for both new projects and business development. His flying allowed him to dramatically shrink the five-hour road trip required each way for getting to Salt Lake City and back by car. “In my airplane, that trip is about an hour and 45 minutes,” he said. “There was no contest.”