Chandler airport gives city's economy a lift - East Valley Tribune: News

Chandler airport gives city's economy a lift

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Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2009 5:57 pm | Updated: 12:43 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

It may be tucked back into a still mostly rural area of Chandler, but this little airport - by Phoenix Sky Harbor International standards, at least - is a large driver of the city's economy.

Chandler Airpark: Soaring with potential

House-sized hangars line up in neat rows at Chandler Municipal Airport like giant storage sheds at a massive rent-a-locker facility. They harbor hundreds of small planes, while others are parked on the tarmac, some under ramadas, most baking in the summer sun.

It may be tucked back into a still mostly rural area of Chandler, but this little airport - by Phoenix Sky Harbor International standards, at least - is a large driver of the city's economy.

Chandler Airpark: Soaring with potential

 

Summer is the slowest season, said Greg Chenoweth, airport director, so the steady pace of takeoffs and landings that keep the runways busy in February and March is absent on a July afternoon.

But the Chandler airport, as is obvious from the sheer volume of planes housed there - nearly 500 of them, Chenoweth said - is among the country's 50 busiest airports.

It controls more than 260,000 operations during an average year, Chenoweth said, although the bad economy downsized even that number to about 220,000 last year.

A 2002 study by Arizona Department of Transportation estimated the airport has a $53 million annual economic impact on the area's economy.

That's because the airport not only provides its own jobs and related operations such as fuel sales, property maintenance and management, but it also offers easy access for corporate movers and shakers to the south East Valley and attracts companies with thousands of jobs to locate within an easy drive of the hub.

The airport has attracted more than a dozen on-site aviation-related businesses from flight schools to airplane maintenance and repair shops. There's another 40 acres available for more of those businesses to move in.

Chandler airport is a haven for recreational and sports fliers, flight training, and, increasingly, for the corporate crowd, Chenoweth said.

Business at the airport accelerated after nearby Chandler Fashion Center mall opened in 2001, and it shifted into overdrive as the Price Corridor, the property surrounding the Loop 101 and Price Road in south Chandler, emerged as a major high-tech corporate destination, Chenoweth said.

The airport is the centerpiece of a nine-square-mile area dubbed the Chandler Airpark that the city hopes will eventually mimic the success of Scottsdale's Airpark -- a major employment hub for that city.

"Airports are economic engines," Chenoweth said.

But some of the tenant businesses believe Chandler Municipal Airport is not doing all it can to attract new businesses or grow existing ones.

John Walkup, owner of Chandler Air Service, said the airport has stagnated for the last couple of years and not just because of the down economy.

Walkup, along with other aviation-related businesses, pilots and community members, formed the Chandler Airport Alliance to pitch changes in the airport and the way it's marketed. "An airport is a retail business owned by a government entity. It's not working," he said.

Chandler Air Service, which provides maintenance and fueling services as well as its primary focus, an FAA approved flight school, is the airport's longest tenant.

Walkup said he landed at Chandler Municipal Airport 30 years ago because he thought it was the best possible location for his fledgling flight school. "We're here because we want to be at Chandler Municipal Airport, and we still have faith in the airport and Chandler," Walkup said.

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