Williams Gateway Airport on Monday released figures highlighting its effect on the local economy, three days before a special meeting will be held to review a contested residential development near the airport.
The airport contributed $251.4million to the local economy in 2002, according to the latest Arizona Department of Transportation figures provided to the airport earlier this month. The number was more than double the $114 million contributed in 1998, the last year ADOT had surveyed airport economic effects.
The airport contributed $71million to employees of the 37 businesses at the airport, said Brian Sexton, spokesman for Williams Gateway Airport. The remaining $180 million was money generated specifically because of the airport’s function, including visitor spending, he said.
Keno Hawker, Mesa mayor and Williams Gateway Airport Authority chairman, said in Monday’s news release that "it is my intention to protect (the airport) from residential encroachment and set policy to ensure it can reach its potential."
On Thursday, Mesa’s Planning and Zoning Board will hold a special meeting to discuss two proposed major general plan amendments that if approved would allow residential development near the airport. The board is scheduled to vote next month, with the City Council voting later.
Hawker said he was not responsible for the timing of the release, and Sexton said there was "no connection" between the release and the upcoming general plan amendment hearings.
LKY Development is asking for two amendments for property on the north side of Elliot Road, between Signal Butte and Ellsworth roads. Hawker told the Tribune on Monday that he will not support the amendments, which he said could jeopardize the future success of Williams Gateway Airport. He said the airport area is projected to provide more than 100,000 new jobs by 2035.
"We know that’s going to be a large employment center at build-out, and some of our citizens are getting anxious to see a positive return generated from that area," Hawker said.