The following was addressed to Longmont City Council on March 14,2011, in response to the presentation of the final three chapters of the Airport Master Plan. This Airport Master Plan is controversial because of the inclusion of a runway extension at Vance Brand Airport. In addition, an ongoing controversy exists over the noise generated by Mile-Hi Skydiving by their dawn to dusk operation during good weather.I would like to comment on the airport master plan and urge you to remove the runway extension from the plan. I believe the runway extension will increase airplane traffic and result in more environmental impacts, especially noise.
A major justification for the airport expansion is that it will create jobs. Chapter 8 of the master plan, titled “Airport Economic Impacts” summarizes the economic benefits of the airport on the region’s economy.
For example, “In 2010 the airport supported an estimated 257 jobs in Colorado that earned a total of $5.3 million.” First, these jobs are not necessarily in Longmont. And second, if you do the math that works out to an average salary of $20,622 annually. The scope of the master plan is limited and does not provide any context for these figures.
Chapter 8 devotes a lot of attention to Mile-Hi Skydiving Center – as they are one of the top two employers. The report states “In 2010, the payroll and benefits at each of these companies exceeded $100,000.” Is that a lot? Does the economic benefit justify the cost to the community of living under a blanket of noise? Let’s put the $100,000 payroll in perspective.
For comparison, Chapter 8 mentions a few specific companies in Longmont – IBM, Seagate, Intel and Amgen. These companies employ skilled workers. The average salary for a software engineer is about $100,000 – for one employee. A healthy economy relies on a diverse employment base, but higher salaries generate a bigger impact within the local economy.
Consider also the new Covidien Research and Innovation Center located in Gunbarrel. Covidien employs 1,800 skilled workers locally. They chose to locate in Boulder County because “The culture of innovation here is second to none.” These are the businesses that will lead to economic prosperity. They don’t require being next door to an airport and they don’t rely on government subsidies to remain viable.
The way to build a strong economy in Longmont is by providing a high quality of life, and attracting manufacturing and high-tech companies – not by extending the runway.