Jennifer Skoglund UNION-BULLETIN
Column – Sky is Limit for Business at WW Airport
January 24, 2015
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  • The Walla Walla Regional Airport’s two major lines of business, aviation and the business park, produced solid results in 2014.

    On the aviation side of the ledger, passenger enplanements set a record with 36,272 boardings. This represents a 9.7 percent increase in boardings over 2013.

    Passenger load factors, the percentage of seats filled for each flight, averaged 74 percent in 2014 up from 70 percent in 2013. Load factors are closely monitored by Alaska Airlines and our strong numbers have clearly moved Walla Walla from a marginally performing market to a strong performing market.

    Area residents who are flying out of Walla Walla whenever possible are making a significant impact. Thank you!

    Our goal now is to increase the number of flights. Not an easy assignment as Walla Walla is one of the smallest markets Alaska Airlines serves.

    The national trend is that small markets are losing air service entirely to regional-based airports. Walla Walla is bucking that trend, thanks to our progressive community.

    While more flights may be a tough sell, we are going to continue to pursue this goal.

    The airport’s general aviation community — emergency medical operations, agricultural aviation operations, cargo operations, flight instruction and business and personal travel — is doing well. In 2014 there were 23,652 aircraft operations.

    The airport continues to improve its aging infrastructure. The Port has invested $3.9 million during the past two years to rehabilitate large portions of the aviation ramp.

    In the next few years, the airport plans to rehabilitate the main taxiway system leading to the airport’s primary runway at a cost of approximately $7 million. Funding for these projects comes primarily from Federal Aviation Administration grants.

    The airport’s business park has never done better. The occupancy rate for existing buildings is well over 90 percent.

    In 2014, four new buildings were constructed, all by private businesses. The airport offers land leases up to 50 years. This allows a business to use its limited capital to construct buildings that make its business more productive, thereby avoiding the capital outlay of purchasing real property.

    The business park has become a vibrant and growing small business community, including wineries, distilleries, artist studios, lodging, coffee shop, bakery and a host of small manufacturing companies.

    The airport’s wine incubator buildings continue to operate at full capacity. The goal of the program to graduate tenants within six years is being realized. The wine incubator program has also been expanded to allow for startup microbreweries. The first microbrewery tenant is Burwood Brewing Company.

    The transformation of the airport began when the Port of Walla Walla agreed to assume ownership from the city of Walla Walla and Walla Walla County in 1989.

    In 2001, the airport terminal building was completed at cost of $10.5 million. The main airport runway was reconstructed in 2003 at a cost of $6.4 million.

    Dozens of buildings within the business park have been remodeled by the Port and/or its tenants. Dilapidated buildings have been torn down and the airport’s main entrance has been landscaped to improve the visual image of the business park.

    Walla Walla has one of the most vibrant airport business parks in the state of Washington.

    The Port Commission remains committed to enhancing both lines of business at the airport with targeted capital investments.

    Jennifer Skoglund has been the manager of the Walla Walla Regional Airport since 2009. Previous to that she held various leadership roles at the airport dating back to 1999. She is a graduate of Washington State University with a degree in business administration. She currently serves on the executive committee of the Washington Airport Managers Association.