County Comment: Senators, Businessmen Talk up Airport
Senators, Businessmen Talk up Airport
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer
On August 7th, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin announced a new $2.9 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) that will realign and move one of the airport's major taxiways.
A press conference featured Cardin, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, Senator Barbara Mikulski's Western Maryland representative Juliana Albowicz and members of the Airport business community.
Prior to that event the Senator met with County Commissioners and Airport Commission members, then with representatives of three of the more than 50 businesses located on the airfield.
Cardin called HGR, "an important economic engine for Washington County and for the entire Western Maryland region." He cited the $70 million annual contribution to the local economy and the more than 1,000 jobs at businesses at the airport.
Cardin stated his commitment to ensuring that the airport receives funding it needs to be in compliance with FAA standards. He also discussed the recently announced bill that would ensure continuance of commercial air service at the facility through January of 2008.
Senators Cardin and Mikulski have been pivotal in supporting HGR. In a prepared statement, Mikulski said, "Our regional airports play a key role in maintaining Maryland's robust economy. The Hagerstown Regional Airport is critical to keeping Western Maryland's economy moving." The Senator vowed to continue support for federal investment in the western counties.
Congressman Roscoe Bartlett also stated support for HGR, and commended his colleagues for non-partisan commitment to the facility and a willingness to work together.
Representatives of three airfield businesses, Northrop-Grumman, Sierra Nevada and Earth Data commended Washington County for providing a choice locality for highly technical businesses in the aviation industry.
Bill Shaver of Sierra Nevada said that his company has grown from 35 employees in 2004 to over 200 employees today, and looks to add another 100 jobs this year.
Tom Harrington of Earth Data International, a mapping firm has been located at the airfield for 16 years, said that the runway extension project, slated to be completed in late November of this year, will allow for heavier jets to be located there. Those larger planes translate into more business for the company and additional jobs at its facility.
Mike Deavers of the Northrop-Grumman corporation said the operation at HGR has grown from 80 employees to 130 over the past year, and about 20 positions yet to be filled. Deavers said the runway enhancements provide additional safety for his customers as they fly in and out of the facility, as well as for those test flights Northrop-Grumman conducts.
Clients of those HGR businesses include a number of federal agencies involved in activities as diverse as the protection of national security and fighting wildfires on public lands.
Airport Manager Carolyn Motz invited those gathered to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of the runway project, set for November 30th.