As part of my duties as President of the United States Conference of Mayors, I have the opportunity to talk to leaders across the nation about a number of important issues. Many of the topics affect nearly every city, large or small. Airports is a topic that is right at the top of this list.
Public airports are seen as assets in communities lucky enough to have one. Many people are surprised when I tell them that we actually have not one, but two airports in Mesa – Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (PMGA) and Falcon Field. Both airports were established in Mesa (actually on the same day) to be training grounds in World War II for both American and British pilots. Building on this rich military history, both public airports have evolved to be economic engines not only for Mesa, but for the entire region.
Falcon Field and PMGA each bring in more than a billion dollars in economic activity to the region each year. Falcon, the fifth busiest general aviation airport in the country, continues to grow and evolve with businesses such as MD Helicopters, Marsh Aviation and Desert Jet Center joining Boeing, the home of the Apache Attack Helicopter. PMGA hosts Allegiant Airlines, and recently celebrated serving its five millionth passenger.Aviation companies like Cessna, Embraer and Able Engineering are located at the airport. PMGA offers financial benefits such as a Foreign Trade Zone, which allows merchandise into the United States duty-free for storage or manufacturing; and as a Military Reuse Zone, which provides tax incentives to aviation related businesses located on former air bases.
With public airports being such an important piece of our economic pie, it is prudent that we continue to work within federal safety regulations to protect them while planning wisely for their future. Wise planning begins with the areas surrounding airports. This includes zoning that encourages complementary uses that will help grow and support the airport. At PMGA, the City Council adopted the Mesa Gateway Strategic Development Plan, which provides a flexible development framework that guides land use that emphasizes the economic advantages of the airport.
The ultimate success of an airport will be measured by our ability to balance the business and safety needs of the airport with those of our residents. As our airports grow, we need to not only protect theairspace,we alsomust be vigilant about the health and safety of our residents and their property. This is not an easy task, but it is an important one. We will continue to work with the neighbors surrounding our airports, the airport businesses and the FAA to achieve this necessary balance through reasonable solutions. Several community programs have been launched and will continue to build on our Fly Friendly policies. By improving communication channels between residents and businesses, we hope to better understand the wants and the needs of all interests.
In Mesa, aviation is our passion. We can’t help it! With a rich aviation history, growing economic opportunities, and more sunshine than we know what to do with, our aviation and aerospace future is limitless.
Scott Smith was first elected Mayor of Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city and and the 38th largest in America, in 2008. He was re-elected (unopposed) to a second term in 2012, and was sworn in as President of the United States Conference of Mayors in June 2013.