Yes, Vista Field should remain open and here's why (from an economic benefit standpoint alone): Several businesses with high-paying jobs are either located near the field or will be moving nearby -- to a large degree, because of their access to the nearby air transportation the field provides. Existing businesses include Cadwell Labs, Advanced Medical Isotope, UPS and BK Attorney Services. The Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute has bought property adjacent to the field and plans to build a $5 million facility and relocate their services there. With immediate, through-the-fence access to the airport, they can fly their medical teams in and out with very short turn-around times. They made the decision to relocate at Vista Field after the port commissioners voted unanimously to maintain the field in March 2010. It is understood Pacific Cataract is also considering relocating their aircraft maintenance facility from the west side to Vista Field. Without Vista Field, these entities will not be here but will relocate to another area adjacent to an airport.
The port should be asking, "Do we want to maintain these high-paying jobs or do we want to replace them with low-paying hospitality and retail jobs?" Since the port states, "The Port of Kennewick's mission is to provide and support sound economic growth opportunities that create jobs and/or improve the quality of life of the port district citizens," the answer should be obvious.
The Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Division considers Vista Field to be "An Essential Public Facility." WSDOT Aviation recently completed the "2012 Aviation Economic Impact Study." The report's Summary of Findings states: "This study finds that there are significant direct economic and fiscal benefits created by the aviation system in the state and that the system is a core element of the state's transportation infrastructure, which supports local and state economic prosperity. In addition, the value derived by individuals, communities, and businesses from their access to and use of aviation services far exceeds even the direct job, wage, and output impacts. As state and local jurisdictions grapple with significant budget challenges, it will be critical that aviation system needs, as well as their potential economic and fiscal impacts, be thoughtfully considered when discussing priorities for public funding." The reader may refer to WSDOT's own specific economic impact study for Vista Field online at www.wsdot.wa.gov.
Yes, considering obvious economic reasons, Vista Field should remain open and the port should be investing adequately in the field to make it the viable facility it can be. When the port indicates its backing of the field by adequate public investment, the promised private investment is sure to follow.
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-- MIKE WHITE, Kennewick