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Says airport is economic tool

By Staff | May 4, 2009

To the Editor:

Great! Another hot-button issue for us to process. As if the national news media doesn’t serve us a healthy dose of those every day. Now we have the local airport expansion issue, and, as usual, the strongest opinions come from those who (as Don Henley put it) “don’t know much of nothin'” about the subject, and sadly, care the least.

That said, I’d better simultaneously disqualify – and qualify – myself. I have to admit that I have not been a regular attendee of city council meetings nor have I ever spoken to an Economic Development Director at City Hall. I have, however, had an intense interest in flying for as long as I can remember. I got a private pilot’s license in 1967 while I was in the Air Force, and presently hold a commercial pilot’s license and instrument rating. I also held a flight instructor’s certificate for over 20 years. I was part owner of the Blue Earth Flying Service for many years and had a close association with agricultural aviation and application through that ownership. I chaired the Chamber of Commerce airport committee during the last airport expansion in the 1980’s, and well remember dealing with many of the same issues being brought up now.

So, for the ‘comfort of home’ experts to contemplate:

I. Be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Agriculture is indisputably our largest and most important industry. Its success very often depends on aerial application and we are just plain ‘lucky’ to have the Steier family in Blue Earth, providing that service to our farmers. The Steiers are very highly respected in the aerial application community and are considered industry leaders by their peers.

II. I know of no greater proponents for the expansion of commerce in our area than Tim and Barb Steier. They literally put blood, sweat, and tears into it. The idea that the Steiers would be a major beneficiary of the airport expansion is inane drivel probably conjured up from the drool pool next to the easy chair in the ‘comfort of home.’ They don’t need a longer runway to fly spray planes, for crying out loud. The Steier family runs a successful, honest business in our town and have a strong desire to see Blue Earth prosper. They deserve our respect and certainly not that grand exhibition of denigration shown in last week’s letter to the editor. I seriously doubt that attitude is a good endorsement of our community when we are looking for new businesses – might scare ’em to death!

III. While continuing to contemplate from the “comfort of home”, one might worry that the owner of a viable jobs-producing concern won’t be arriving our fair city in his great flying silver steed. Or, you might think of it in a different way: when considering Blue Earth as a location, for said concern, accommodation of their steed will be a primary consideration. Business aircraft need runway length. That’s what one would call “precise planning”.

IV. In the state of Minnesota airport expansion is a step-by-step process, and, at about 20 year intervals, cities are offered a window of opportunity (and funding) to make airport improvements. That window of opportunity is quite brief, and if we let it go we will wait at least 20 years before it again presents itself. There are plenty of cities waiting and hoping that we turn this down.

Look before you leap is usually good advice, but in this case, it might be that look before you don’t leap would be better advice especially if it’s off your easy chair in the ‘comfort of home’.

Dr. Jim Ekse,

Blue Earth