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Airport vital to region's economy

The Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce takes great interest in the Hillsboro Tribune’s coverage of the Hillsboro Airport (“Airport Fight May Have a Rough Landing,” Jan. 25, 2013). The chamber is strongly supportive of the airport as well as the many businesses located there. Our support is based on the substantial contributions the airport makes to our economy as well as to our community and quality of life.

The airport is a long-standing institution in Hillsboro. As the Tribune correctly notes, the airport predates most of the nearby growth that has occurred over the decades. We don’t mean to come across as cavalier about noise or other effects associated with living near an airport. But in most cases, the airport — and many of its companies — were there before the critics moved to the area.

The Tribune article cites an impressive array of statistics that speak to the economic impact of the airport. Here are just a few:

n The airport generates more than $75 million annually in economic impact.

n There are more than 25 companies at the airport, providing 436 direct jobs, most of them in small businesses with 15 or fewer employees. There are nearly 1,200 total jobs (direct and indirect generated by the airport and its associated companies).

n The airport generates $5.5 million annually in state and local taxes.

In addition, the airport (and one of the businesses located there) plays a vital role in Portland Community College’s Aviation Sciences program, which provides an important career opportunity for dozens of students annually — many of them veterans.

These statistics only tell part of the story. The people who own businesses or work at the airport are our neighbors. They pay their taxes. They contribute to our schools and charitable causes. They buy goods from our retailers, restaurants, and other businesses.

The companies at the airport have invested in the lives of their employees, and they have invested in their businesses. It is too easy to criticize certain aspects of a company’s operations, and even call for the closing of a company, without acknowledging what such actions would have on real people. Do we really want to shut down companies that have invested in our community in good faith? Do we really want to tell their employees they need to find work somewhere else?

Another important aspect of the airport is its role in business recruitment. Companies appreciate the opportunity to fly directly in and out of Hillsboro. We know of companies that have opted to locate in Hillsboro in part because we have this strong asset right here. “Oregon Aviation Watch,” a self-described advocacy organization, may not officially favor the closure of the airport. But its stance against some of the companies that operate there certainly does not send a positive message as we seek to invite more companies to come to Hillsboro.

The airport, and the many businesses located there, are an important part of the Hillsboro economy and community. The chamber wishes to go on record as being a strong supporter of the airport and these companies.

Doug Barrett is chairman of the board of directors of the Greater Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce.




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