March 6, 2015

State lawmakers and aviation advocates met March 5 in Austin, TX for the second annual Texas General Aviation (GA) Caucus breakfast. Organized by Texans for General Aviation and NBAA, the gathering provided a welcome forum for NBAA Members to inform state legislators about the importance of business aviation not only to their companies, but also to communities throughout the state.

NBAA Board member Jim Schwertner, president of Capitol Land and Livestock, told lawmakers he would not be able to handle business across the state without utilizing his Cessna Citation CJ2 and Robinson R44 Beta II helicopter to fly into small airfields in outlying rural communities.

“These are the places I need to go to for [cattle] auctions,” he said. “It’s important that legislators get out to the public what important economic drivers these airports and business aircraft are.”

Brian McCoy, president and CEO of McCoy’s Building Supply, compared his company’s growth from 1975 – when McCoy’s had just opened its 12th store, and had annual sales companywide of $15 million – to its standing today with 87 locations and $690 million in annual sales.

“To say that our aircraft had a lot to do with that expansion would be an understatement,” McCoy noted. “If you are a small, family-owned business as we are, you want to make an impact with customers and vendors. Our aircraft enable us to do that at multiple locations across the state.”

McCoy also spoke about how business aviation helped McCoy’s weather the recent recession.

“We lost about 40 percent of our business and $100 million in sales,” he recalled. “We were suffering, [but] to get close to our teams, our stores, and our customers… we increased the use of our aircraft as a tool to help us survive.”

The third speaker was Shelly de Zevallos, president of Texans for General Aviation and co-owner of West Houston Airport (IWS). A full 60 percent of the more than 395 aircraft based at the field are used for business, she noted, with the airport contributing more than $25 million in annual economic impact to the region despite operating just one, 3,950-foot runway.

Formed in 2013, the Texas GA Caucus is comprised of approximately 30 lawmakers from the state House of Representatives and Senate. “As our state continues to grow at a rapid pace, our reliance upon general aviation, including business aviation, as a vital and inherent part of our transportation system is imperative,” noted caucus chairman Rep. John Kuempel.

Steve Hadley, NBAA’s director of regional programs and the Association’s Southwest regional representative, said attendees left the breakfast with a new perspective about the industry’s importance to Texas communities and the state’s economy.

“General aviation, including business aviation, is vital to effectively conducting business throughout Texas, and lawmakers need to be aware that the industry helps provide jobs in their districts,” he said. “I’d say those messages were very well received, and there was a great deal of discussion about the need to get the word out to other lawmakers through the caucus.”