Airport Advocates and Supporters
Although an airport can often be perceived as an operation that is separate from the larger community, the opposite can also be true. The airport can be an integral partner in the region with many connections to the community. This understanding does not happen by accident or simply because the airport is in the community. It occurs when the airport actively engages with the community leaders, community organizations, and members of the general public to open lines of communication. The conversations provide information which can lead to a better understanding of the airport’s roles and benefits. With understanding comes trust and confidence in the airport as a community partner. Relationships are built on this trust and understanding. These relationships make it easier to align community expectations with airport roles when issues occur.
The following list describes a sample of the groups that can be valuable and effective advocates for the airport. Also included are examples of methods to interact or become involved with these groups. The information listed is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but merely a sample of information/suggestions with options for implementation. The Organizational Roles at Your Airport section contains more examples of airport advocates.
Elected officials often make many decisions that impact an airport, both in the community around an airport and sometimes for an airport itself, depending on airport ownership. They need to understand how the decisions they make to support the airport also benefit the community. Because elected officials change, the outreach and education process is never complete, it can be a continual effort. The most direct way to provide information to an elected body is for the airport manager or another airport advocate to attend board or council meetings a few times each year to provide an update on what’s happening at the airport. This keeps the interaction active and moves it farther away from only being present when an airport “needs” something. In addition to airport representatives attending community board or council meetings, elected officials may also be included on an airport advisory committee.
Planning Boards and Commissions
Planning boards and commissions make land use decisions that can impact an airport’s ability to operate without limitation. Both the community and the airport may have master planning processes that provide a platform for conversations about land use or zoning ordinances that take into account airport areas. Building a strong relationship with the planning and zoning officials before a problem arises, is important as it allows for more proactive discussion on topics that may be important to both groups before it becomes an urgent matter. Airport managers or other advocates can also offer presentations to the planning commission about what’s happening at the airport. The airport can also subscribe to distribution lists for planning commission agendas and participate in conversations that impact the airport.
Chamber of Commerce
As a membership organization for businesses in the community, the Chamber of Commerce and even the Economic Development Corporation are organizations that both airport and community groups often view as advocates for an airport and its economic value. Chamber members and economic development interests often understand the value of aviation to the economy as a direct user of commercial or charter aircraft, and other economic benefits such as supply chain delivery for manufacturing operations or delivery of perishables such as flowers or seafood as an example. Airport leadership can build relationships with Chamber organizations and economic development representatives through membership, speaking engagements, and after-hours mixer events. These after-hours mixer events can be held at the airport in an effort to get business interests to the airport so they can personally see what is happening at the airport first-hand.
Local service organizations such as the Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary provide a ready audience for presentations about the airport. In addition, members of these organizations tend to be active in the local community and can help to spread the message about why the airport is an important community resource. Having airport staff either make presentations to these groups or be involved in them personally where they can share information about the airport are both viable options for involvement.