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DeKALB – City officials are looking into an enhanced marketing plan that intends to bring more business to the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport and make it more financially stable.
The airport has been operating for the past few years with a budget deficit, which has been filled mostly with money from the city’s general fund. Economic development consultant Roger Hopkins said getting the airport to a point of self-sufficiency was one of the most important projects given to him when the city council approved his contract in April.
But to make that happen, Hopkins said during the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, the city needs to make the airport more visible and attractive to businesses and aviators throughout the region.
While using the airport to accommodate corporate planes would help, working to attract plane owners who usually store and fly planes out of airports closer to Chicago or Rockford would have a significant impact as well, Hopkins said.
“General aviation is our backbone, in both hangar space and probably fuel sales,” he said.
Still, letting businesses in the area, including corporations like Target and 3M, know what the airport offers – such as industrial and warehouse space – could help increase daily operations. Attracting new business development near the airport and along Peace Road could also help maximize the airport’s potential.
But the slow pace of the national economic recovery could hinder DeKalb’s efforts, Hopkins said.
“The main thing that’s holding back companies right now is them being cautious about how they spend money,” he said.
With only $10,000 budgeted in the airport fund for marketing, an advertising campaign would be a more gradual process, instead of sudden big hit, Director of Public Works T. J. Moore said.
Fourth Ward Alderman Brendon Gallagher suggested using the $72,000 the city initially budgeted for a federal lobbyist in Washington, D.C., toward the airport marketing, but Moore said strategically it might make more sense to increase that funding by a smaller amount so the city is better able to maintain and follow through on an increase in advertising.
“Thinking more long term, we really need to handle this more as a marathon than a sprint,” he said.
There are smaller steps that could make a bigger impact, such as better signage at the intersection of Peace Road and Lincoln Highway, using social media to advertise events at the airport and having city and Chamber of Commerce officials become more vocal proponents of the facility.
The chamber hosted an “After Hours,” event at the airport in September to generate more interest among local businesses.
The marketing plan is scheduled to go before the Airport Advisory Board on Oct. 19. After that, it would likely come back to the city council for more discussion.