Home Opinion Editorial Air Center planning should be inclusive

Air Center planning should be inclusive

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The Daily Record has devoted a good deal of paper and ink, for some time, to coverage of matters related to the Roswell Air Center. There’s no reason to think that will change any time soon. The Air Center is one of the city’s and region’s most obvious assets and its development is important to the future of Roswell and the surrounding area.

Much of the coverage of Air Center-related topics in recent months has focused on how the facility will be overseen in the future — continued management by the city, or under the umbrella of a regional authority, creation of which was made possible by legislation the governor signed into law earlier this year. On that question, there remain divergent viewpoints.

We have time to figure this out. The process of transitioning management of the Air Center to a regional authority — if indeed that proves the best way to maximize the center’s potential — was always likely to be a lengthy endeavor, one that could easily require a torch-passing process from one generation of local leadership to the next. And perhaps the next. The key thing at this point is that the torch stay lit.

That will require getting all the players involved, whether they’re on the same page or not, seated at the same table at least some of the time, figuratively and literally. The city’s Airport Advisory Commission, which advises the City Council on Air Center-related matters, currently meets at roughly the same time as the county commission, which makes it difficult for commissioners to attend. County officials and others have suggested changing the Airport Advisory Commission’s meeting schedule — and that’s an obvious next step in making efforts to plot the Air Center’s future more inclusive and broadening discussion about the airport in general. But even that’s just a start.

A report released by the city a few months ago — analyzing the potential transition of the Air Center from a city-managed asset to a regional authority-managed asset — identified a number of challenges, many of them financial.

Propelling the Air Center from where it is now — not a bad place, with the Airport Advisory Commission and Air Center staff focused on its development — to the lofty heights many think it can attain, as an economic development engine for Roswell and the region, will be no small task. Give-and-take between those with divergent viewpoints and ultimately financial commitment from the governing entities involved will be required.

But it would be no surprise — and certainly no failure — for the early stages of such a process to look like what’s been presented, publicly, since June: Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh has pointed out that questions raised by the report must be addressed, indicating what’s needed is a detailed plan for how a regional authority would function to support Air Center operations. He notes that how the airport is handled will ultimately be up to Roswell’s governing body, the City Council. Members of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation — one of the groups that’s pushed for creation of a regional authority — have indicated they’re working to review airport-related information and meet with city officials. The EDC board also voted unanimously to continue pushing for formation of a regional authority. And Will Cavin, Chaves County Commission chairman, has pledged that the county will be there with financial support (though not a blank check), if and when there’s a working plan in place for development of a regional authority.

There are other assets and opportunities worthy of attention from the city and the entities here focused on local economic development — the airport’s far from the only thing Roswell has going on. But realistically, it’s more than just another part of the mix. The former air base, thanks to its role in the history of the region, the hopes attached to its future — and the fact that it’s an airport, with all the attendant imagery related to taking flight — captures the imagination in ways no shovel-ready lot, renovated storefront or other development-inducing asset ever could.

All possibilities — including, obviously, creation of a regional authority — should remain on the radar screens of those plotting the Air Center’s future.

Realizing the airport’s full potential is going to take more than a spirit of entrepreneurial adventurism, though that’s absolutely going to be a needed ingredient along the way. It’s going to take a heck of a lot of work. It’s going to take long-term commitment, and no doubt many starts and stops.

What seems most important now is that all points of view are afforded respectful consideration, and the discussion continues — the torch stays lit.

The Air Center represents an opportunity to think big about the future of Roswell. There’s no reason to put limits now on how big.

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John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at editor@rdrnews.com. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.