February 11, 2013

NBAA recently joined with members of the North Dakota Aviation Council (NDAC) to sponsor an Aviation Day breakfast and gathering at the state capitol building in Bismarck, where they met with lawmakers and discussed the issues facing commercial and general aviation in the state.

“The idea for Aviation Day grew out of the North Dakota Aviation Council’s purpose of promoting aviation within the state and presenting their concerns before the general public, as well as state and federal government,” said Joshua Simmers, North Dakota Aeronautics Commission liaison to the state Aviation Council. “This was a great opportunity to not only recognize the vital role our industry has played to enabling our state’s economic growth, but also to discuss the impact that growth has had on our aviation infrastructure.”

Promoting the message that “Aviation Works for North Dakota,” the council of eight state aviation groups organized the Feb. 8 event to rally support for a one-time, $60 million grant proposed in Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s budget to help repair airport infrastructure in western North Dakota, where an oil boom has led to record growth.

The council also emphasized the need for a separate $9.45 million infusion to the state Aeronautics Commission’s General Fund – which, despite significant increases to annual enplanements at airports throughout the state, has not had its appropriation level raised in 25 years.

“The oil boom in western North Dakota has been wonderful for our economy, but there have been physical challenges accompanying it,” said Darren Hall, vice president of marketing for Fargo Jet Center and past chairman of the NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee. “The local news channels run stories about the impact that traffic has had on state roads, but they haven’t paid attention to what’s happening at our airports. They weren’t built to handle this level of capacity, size and weight.”

Hall stressed that those issues aren’t unique to the airports located in the oil boom region, as all the state’s airports have experienced increased traffic levels thanks to North Dakota’s diverse, growing economy.

All involved with the breakfast reported a positive reception from state lawmakers.

“We had a great story to tell,” said Tim Thorsen, president of the Airport Association of North Dakota. “Six of our eight commercial airports experienced all-time records this year; they’re busting at the seams. This breakfast was an excellent chance to introduce ourselves to lawmakers, show them what our needs are and to make our case.”

NBAA helped sponsor the first-time event and hosted a display featuring the Association’s “Business Aviation Works” video demonstrating the vital role that business aviation plays for citizens, companies and communities across the U.S.

View the video here.

“This breakfast was an amazing outreach effort to educate, inform and spread awareness to state lawmakers about the need for infrastructure improvements to general aviation airports across the state,” said NBAA Northwest Regional Representative Kristi Ivey.

Additional methods to promote aviation interests throughout the region will be among the topics discussed during the upcoming Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium, which will take place from March 3 to 5 in Fargo, ND.