By Katie Dahlstrom
For the first and possibly last time, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack on Thursday stood inside the 66-year-old Clinton Municipal Airport terminal.
Not because the Congressman is going anywhere, but because the terminal is part of a $1.9 million terminal and construction project that is under way at the airport.
The city received a $637,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the roughly $900,000 terminal construction portion of the project.
"It's something the Clinton airport has needed for a long time so I'm happy to be here to talk about it," Loebsack, D-Iowa, said.
Loebsack announced the grant in July, calling the airport a tool for economic development in Iowa. He echoed those sentiments Thursday as Airport Manager Mike Nass described the specifics of the project.
The new terminal, which will be built to the east of the current building, will be 500 square feet smaller at 3,200 square feet. It also will be equipped with a variable refrigerant flow heating and cooling system that will make the building as close in energy efficiency to LEED certified as possible.
In conjunction with the terminal project, a new hangar will be built. The city received $150,000 from the Iowa Department of Transportation, another $54,000 from the Iowa DOT for design work and $75,000 from the Clinton County Development Association that will go toward the remaining costs to construct a 10,000-square-foot hangar that will be attached to the new terminal. The city is bonding for the remainder of both projects.
The new hangar will allow for private jets to be stored at the airport, a service the airport can't offer with the facilities it has now.
Nass told Loebsack the state of Iowa pegs the annual economic impact of the airport at $1.9 million.
"That doesn't even include the intangibles of what that's going to mean for the business community," Loebsack said. "For folks to be able to come in the airport and land their jets and park their jets, for example, in the hangar. That's really important. It's just a wonderful economic development tool and it's really important for the Clinton community, there's no question about it."
In addition to the airport's importance to existing businesses, Clinton Regional Development Corp. President and CEO Mike Kirchoff, CRDC Board Chairman Rich Phelan and Vice Chairman Steve Howes spoke about the airport's potential to draw new businesses to the area.
Nass said traffic to the airport has picked up in the past couple of years, specifically in corporate flying. The most recent example being Clysar moving its headquarters back to the plant in Camanche.
"The owner's out in New York and it's perfect to have the airport right here. He can fly in and seven minutes later he can be at his plant's headquarters building," Nass said.
Clinton Engineering is working on the project and expects it to be completed next year, with a celebration slated for next summer.
Beyond the terminal and hangar projects, Nass and Loebsack touched on how the recent federal government shutdown affected a runway project also being completed at the airport because federal funds were used for the project.
The 16-day shutdown was unacceptable, Loebsack said, and caused $24 billion in damage to the economy.
The Congressman's reaction after learning the Clinton airport was among the affected fell far from shock.
"I'm not surprised. Those of us who are in government and are in Congress, if we don't, we should fully understand what a government shutdown can do for so many folks, for our economy, for local economy. We never should have shut it down in the first place," Loebsack said.