Did you know that Prescott Municipal Airport (PRC) is the third busiest airport in Arizona, with over 272,000 operations (landing and takeoffs) in 2015, behind only Sky Harbor and Deer Valley airports? Did you know that the Prescott Airport has improved commercial flights departing to and arriving from both Los Angles (LAX) and Denver (DEN)? Have you seen the training aircraft that fly out of Prescott every day? Did you know that the U.S. Forest Service occupies a base at the Prescott Airport to support forest and wild land firefighting efforts in Northern Arizona and beyond?
Prescott Municipal Airport is a bustling and vital operation. With the right planning and infrastructure improvements, it can become an economic development engine for the entire region. Pursuing regional collaboration is crucial to the success of the airport, both now and in the future. That is why I have asked mayors of Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Dewey-Humboldt and the Yavapai County Supervisors to begin discussing the concept of Prescott Municipal Airport becoming Prescott Regional Airport (PRC).
Airport infrastructure development is mostly funded through federal and state grants, specifically for the benefit of all users at an airport. It is beneficial for our airport and the entire region to seek federal and state grants as a regional airport since Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding decisions are more positive toward supporting a collective body representing all of the citizens within Yavapai County. The City of Prescott is exploring the establishment of an airport authority so other regional municipalities can partner with us and influence future airport development.
The City of Prescott recently received grant funding to: complete a comprehensive Airport Master Plan; conduct an environmental assessment for a new passenger terminal; design and install new LED runway lighting; and design a comprehensive airport security upgrade. Subsequently, Prescott implemented the process to update the Airport Master Plan, which allows elected officials and citizens of this region to provide input about their airport. Improvements derived from the master planning process will help bring our airport into the 21st century; plus, it will support additional economic development in the Quad Cities. Airport Master Plan milestones seek periodic public comment by inviting the public to view the planning work at three open houses occurring throughout 2017.
Members of the Master Plan Action Committee (MPAC) – consisting of regional elected officials, various public and private sector representatives and airport stakeholders – will also conduct several public work sessions throughout 2017. During these meetings, the MPAC will compile information from the groups mentioned above, and then provide input to an airport consultant who will ultimately draft a five-, 10- and 20-year plan. You, as a citizen of the Quad Cities or living in Yavapai County, can express your opinion of the airport planning process at these meeting or to your respective elected officials.
Regional mayors and I believe that it is feasible, through the use of Public/Private Partnerships (P3), to expand and improve PRC. Participation by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors would round out regional cooperation in support of P3 agreements. The commitment of private sector investors and businesses to help fund airport improvements is a very real and exciting possibility. Businesses must have convenient and reliable air service in order to commute for business as well as ship products. With greater air cargo capability, new and expanding businesses will look to start up or relocate to Prescott.
This is especially true for those with links to technological fields taught at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), and our other institutions of higher learning. For example, the City of Prescott and ERAU are collaborating to develop a technology incubator project to attract industry in the fields of cyber security, drone technology, robotics and intelligence and national security. As businesses develop in these areas, we will be better positioned to provide jobs for our graduates. A critical component for success in this endeavor is an improved airport complex.
If all goes according to schedule, the FAA and ADOT will formally adopt our airport plan by 2018, and then schedule grant opportunities to advance it. Revitalizing our airport is undoubtedly a monumental undertaking. It can only be accomplished by forward thinking elected officials, committed public-private partners who see the great potential benefit to our collective communities and support of county residents who ultimately will bring this vision to fruition. With support from the entire region, we can obtain improved scheduled air service and increased economic development for the entire Quad Cities area. QCBN
By Harry B. Oberg
Harry B. Oberg is mayor of the City of Prescott.