Community leaders focus on improving New Bedford Regional Airport

NEW BEDFORD — Business and civic leaders have come together to help create a strategic plan for the New Bedford Regional Airport.

The group will study ways to improve the airport’s role as a job-creator and driver of the local economy, Mayor Jon Mitchell announced Wednesday. The plan will be prepared with assistance of the aviation consulting firm McFarland Johnson.

“Every successful city has to ensure that it has robust transportation connections that allow for the smooth flow of people, ideas, and goods,” Mitchell said in a statement. “If New Bedford is not forming a strategy and taking necessary steps to improve its connectedness to the rest of the world, then we are jeopardizing our future success, and, as Mayor, that is not something I am willing to contemplate. The status quo is simply not an option; we can and must do better.”

The group, chaired by former Precix Inc. CEO David Slutz, will oversee the work of the consultant in several areas, including the analysis of commercial and general aviation opportunities and the identification of possible management/operational/infrastructure improvements, according to a news release.

“A strong airport is more essential than ever — whether you’re a business traveler, vacationer, or a company that needs to efficiently transport its products or personnel to customers nationally and internationally,” Slutz said in a statement. “We have a strong foundation to build upon in New Bedford. The goal of our group will be to provide a realistic and achievable path forward that will allow the airport to reach its full potential.”

In 2015, the airport generated $32.4 million in local economic activity, up from $26.3 million in 2011, based on a standard economic modeling process approved by the FAA, according to a study by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division. The study found the airport supports 297 public and private jobs with an annual payroll of $10.6 million.

The group hopes to complete its work and finalize the consultant’s recommendations by the end of 2018.

“Understanding what local companies need to compete in the global economy, I can tell you that it is absolutely imperative that New Bedford has a strong, successful airport, one that puts our local businesses in the strongest possible position to compete,” said Carlos DaCunha, group member and member of the Airport Commission, in a statement. – The Standard-Times

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