The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 22, 2013

Airport leaders form strategic plan

JOHNSTOWN — Following through on a pledge to run John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport more like a business, leaders have completed a far-reaching strategic plan to guide economic development and operational projects into the future.

“They had a strategic plan, but it dealt more with property,” airport authority Chairman William Polacek said. “It was not a business strategic plan; we added to that to make it a business plan.”

The authority identified six areas of focus and recruited members and community volunteers to form a committee for each area.

A fiscal strategy committee develops long-term budgeting and tracks cash flow, profit and loss numbers.

The regional hub committee is working to increase ridership on commercial flights. If there are 10,000 enplanements in a year, the airport receives $1 million from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. But if there are fewer than 10,000, the funding drops to $150,000.

Traditional airport authority business is tracked by the property and personnel committee.

The defense community committee works with existing defense contractors and Guard and Reserve units around the airport. It is also exploring new opportunities in the military and defense contracting areas.

An economic development committee takes the overview of any economic development opportunities, Polacek said. Its members explore the possibilities and work to bring interest in the airport and its surrounding properties. A proposed foreign trade zone to be centered at the airport is currently in the committee’s crosshairs.

“As one of those objectives becomes an actual program, the board spins off a committee for that program,” Polacek said.

That has already happened for the natural gas industry. The Marcellus Shale committee is working to make Johnstown a regional operations center for the industry.

“We think we could be an air travel hub for private airlines,” Polacek said, noting many drilling companies are based in Texas.

The airport also has more than 500 acres that could be available for drilling, he added.

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