SILVER SPRINGS - A new runway will be the key to Silver Springs future, according to airport manager Hale Bennett.
A $1.05-million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to help pave the airport's 7,000-foot long gravel runway was announced Thursday.
"Primarily, this will pay to start the process, do the engineering and some of the preliminary work," he said. "The actual paving of the runway will cost more."
Bennett estimated the cost at $1.7 million to pave the first 6,000 feet of the runway.
"This is probably the first of several grants we'll get to develop the airport," he said.
Bennett said he has been trying to get funding for the airport for four years.
"A number of things have delayed the funding," he said. "The FAA suffered under a tremendous shortage of money for the last two or three years, while the aviation trust fund was being used for building a surplus. Now that Congress has passed a bill, that aviation trust fund is being released for doing what the money was originally for."
Money from airline tickets and aviation fuel tax goes into the aviation trust fund.
The airport was built during World War II, making it the same vintage as Minden-Tahoe Airport in Carson Valley.
Silver Springs' runway was paved when it was built, but deteriorated to gravel over the years.
The work will help improve Silver Springs' economy, Bennett said.
"Ultimately, it will provide a home for airplanes and a home for aviation-related business and general industry," he said. "This is totally an economic development issue. It will provide jobs for Silver Springs."
That, Bennett says, is key to Silver Springs' economic future.
"Almost everyone in Silver Springs who works commutes, so whatever they save in the cost of housing they spend in transportation," he said. This will provide jobs so people won't have to commute. If people work locally they will save both time and money and have a bigger and better choice of jobs available."
Bennett said he can see the day when the Silver Springs area, including the airport, becomes an economic hub, home to manufacturing and industrial growth, which will provide jobs for the people of central Lyon County.
The Silver Springs Airport was built in 1944 by the War Department as a training base for heavy bombers. The airport is 7,200 feet long and 150 feet wide, making it the largest rural runway in Nevada. It is the same width as Reno-Tahoe Airport's runways.
Bennett said the project will pave 6,000 feet of the airport's length and half of its width. The airport property, which is leased by Bennett and his wife Kay, a Carson City supervisor, consists of 400 acres.