|Neal Delivers Grants To Pittsfield, North Adams Airports|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:41PM / Friday, July 27, 2018
|Airport Manager Kris Keane, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard.|
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal talks with Airport Commissioner Thomas Sakshaug and Mayor Linda Tyer following the grant announcement.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The airports in both North Adams and Pittsfield has seen a significant number of capital improvements in recent years.
And now, officials in both cities are looking to the future.
"When you reach your potential, your potential expands. We never want to give to what we were. We are trying all the time to upgrade," U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said on Friday when he delivered $405,000 worth of grant funding to the two airports for planning projects.
The Pittsfield Municipal Airport is receiving $315,000 to do a complete update of the master plan. The last master plan was done in 2001 and guided the way for a number of major projects which were completed since then. The new planning process will engage the community and set out short, mid, and long-term visions for the future of the property.
"The times are definitely changing and we want to make sure we are ahead of the curve," Airport Manager Kris Keane.
At Harriman-And-West Airport, $90,000 is being used to update pieces of its long-term plans.
"We have a gem of an airport in North Adams and an opportunity right now to look at what it will take to expand the potential of that for the different audiences, different users who are there - the hobbyist flyer, the small business, we have a major airport maintenance facility in Turboprop and what they're going to need to continue to grow and expand their business," Mayor Tom Bernard said.
Bernard called such planning processes a "valuable endeavor" by providing a deep look at where the airport has been, where it is now, and what it will be like in the future. The process leads to the development of a specific set of goals and deliverables to measure against, he said.
"It really begins with engagement - bringing in airport users, bringing in the community, bringing in our engineering partners - to look at where've been, where we are, where we want to go," Bernard said.
Keane said the process will be the same in Pittsfield. A large group representing different aspects of the city will dive into the entire airport property and decide such things as what type of businesses can be brought in, how the finances could be better, and what capital improvements are needed.
Right now the push has been for administrative buildings and North Adams is currently planning a capital project there and Pittsfield has that is its near sight.
"We are receiving a lot more calls for aircraft owners who want to be based here, more than we actually have space for. That is part of the airport master planning process. We're going to look at what land is available, could we possibly open up a general aviation airport to support this?" Keane gave as an example of the types of aspects to be considered.
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said the airport serves as an important cog in the wheel for the city's future economy. She said not only does Lyon Aviation employ a number of people at the airport, but there are companies and visitors which travel in and out. She said the airport will play a roll in attempting to recruit new businesses in the future and could serve as a way to help the existing companies expand and grow.
"It is a key component to our economic development strategies. We know that this airport, with Lyon Aviation as our fixed-based operator, contributes greatly to our economy. We've been fortunate to receive a significant amount of investment from both state and federal funds to expand and improve our airport," Tyer said.
Neal, who formerly served as mayor in Springfield, said transportation in all forms is a vital piece to an area's success.
"I've been talking about infrastructure forever and part of it is because my DNA is in the mayor's office. I think the ease of which people get from one place to another promotes increased efficiencies and productivity," Neal said.
The ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee said, depending on the midterm election results, that passing an infrastructure bill will be the top priority next year. President Donald Trump had previously pushed a $1.5 trillion plan and Democrats have been supportive of the concept of an infrastructure bill but disagree with how the administration planned to pay for it.
Nonetheless, Neal said should a bill come to fruition places like Pittsfield and North Adams will be"well positioned" to receive capital funding for not only airports but bridges and roads as well.
Tyer added that the master plan is an important piece in keeping the city competitive for state and federal grants.
"We've seen a significant investment, at least in the last 10 years, but we've got to keep going. We have to keep making these investments, we have to modernize this airport so it is responsive to the market and the needs we know exist here and in the Berkshires," Tyer said.
Tyer expanded the push for improvements to the airport to all transportation pieces in the Berkshires, saying having a strong transportation system in all facets is supporting the business community.