Businesses in and around Minden-Tahoe Airport bring an estimated $151.6 million for Douglas County through the generation of jobs, property taxes and sales taxes, according to a report prepared by Thomas Harris, director of the University Center for Economic Development at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"Beyond the direct economic benefits of $106.8 million, the indirect and induced impacts of the airport and surrounding businesses was $44.8 million," Harris said in the report.
The airport and surrounding businesses supported 952 jobs and paid $34.1 million in salaries. Businesses adjacent to the Minden airport bring another $19.6 million in employment, 77 jobs and $3.6 million in labor income, the report said.
Owned and operated by Douglas County, the airport handles an estimated 80,000 aircraft takeoffs and landings annually on its two runways. The airport also serves the Sierra Front Dispatch Agency, which dispatches air tankers along the Sierra Nevada, and is known as a world-class site for glider pilots.
Minden-Tahoe is the gateway to South Lake Tahoe and charter jets contracted to casinos bring about 120 passengers each week. Commercial business has grown, due in part to the lack of a tower at the Lake Tahoe Airport, said Al Gangwish, owner of Hutt Aviation.
"Many customers with jets have second homes here and they come and go weekly," he said. "We also service a lot of general aviation planes. We're busy, and we're glad to be here."
The airport, which takes no tax dollars from Douglas County, garnered a total of $4.3 million in revenues. Expenditures totalled almost $3.9 million in 2005. Capital projects took up the bulk of that budget, or $2.8 million, according to county officials.
A total of $860,187 is generated through hangar and other leases for planes, charges for services and other miscellaneous charges, but the airport relies heavily on Federal Aviation Agency grants, according to airport officials.
Northern Nevada airports received about $13.5 million in 2005 and 2006 from the federal government, paid by airline passengers in six separate taxes and fees on a single airline ticket. More than $104 billion has been collected since 1997, according to a report by The Associated Press.
"What are people getting for their money?" said Kenneth Button, a professor of transportation at George Mason University's School of Public Policy and an expert on air transit taxation. "Delays are increasing. How can consumers make a sensible assessment on how the money is being spent?"
Congress will decide later this year whether to curtail the huge public subsidy for small airports, while pilots' associations, airport managers and other interested groups are fighting to keep it, according to the AP report.
Airport Manager Jim Braswell said the grants pay for critical maintenance. The loss of that funding source would be a catastrophe for the American transportation system.
At Minden-Tahoe, the grants were used to repair pavement failures due to frost heaving over the last three winters, he said.
"We receive an average of $1million to $1.5 million in grants a year just for maintenance," he said. "Emergency services and fire protection are important issues, especially in this part of the country."
In Carson City, grant money will allow the airport to pay for the realignment of the main runway so air traffic flies over the Eagle Valley Golf Course and the city's industrial area instead of the Apollo Drive area. The $25 million in improvements are expected to be done in 2010 or 2011 and should greatly enhance safety, according to airport officials.
Generation of the report was a cooperative effort involving the Northern Nevada Development Authority, the Carson Valley Chamber Economic Development Committee and the Business Council of Douglas County.
• Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.