City of Ottawa officials want to make the Ottawa Municipal Airport, 2178 Montana Road, a gathering place for all walks of life.

Blake Jorgensen and Mike Skidmore, city commissioners, understand how vital it is to have a viable airport close by.

“We think it is a plus in our community to have an airport, Skidmore, Ottawa mayor, said. “We have some newer looks out there. We are getting more traffic.”

The commission a few years ago hired Alfred Benesch & Co. to put together an airport master plan, which in effect is a long-term improvement plan. The commissioners received the plan Monday during its study session. Jorgensen, who also is a member of the airport advisory committee, said the airport has improved dramatically the past couple of decades.

“We have spent a lot of money on the airport due in large part to a microburst [in the late 1990s] that destroyed our old terminal,” he said. “Since then, we have had the new terminal out there plus improvements to the airport. We have been taking slow steps to improve the airport. Using the money to make it a quality airport. We are getting there. People have noticed what we are doing.”

“It was an eye-opening plan,” Skidmore said. “It is long-term. There is a lot of moving parts to it. We have to prioritize what we are looking at recognizing the limitation of funds. It is a fluid document. It is good to be flexible on these plans. There is a lot of important information.”

Jorgensen said a plan is legally necessary, but also an important document for city officials to plan for systematic growth.

“We need to have one in place for the FAA to consider any grants,” Jorgensen said. “It is matter of forecast what the airport is going to mean to the area. The last comprehensive plan is several years old. It is for the growth. It is always a trick to do forecasting. We never know what the future is going to hold.”

Brad Waller, Alfred Benesch & Co. vice president and Manhattan office manager, who put together the master plan, told commissioners the airport has come into its own the past decade, doubling its economic impact to the area.

“The airport is in very good shape,” he said. “It is something to be proud of. The airport is important for the on airport businesses and all community interaction.”

Waller said in 2017, the airport brought in visitors from all over Kansas and 29 other states.

“They are bringing in a lot more than just local people,” Waller said.

Skidmore said Waller’s statement of the usage caught his attention.

“People are coming from a lot of different locations,” Skidmore said. “It is good to see the traffic increasing gradually.”

Jorgensen said the airport is an important tool in economic growth as business executives use of the airport continues to grow. The airport gives those businesses — which have headquarters in other states — easy access to visit their local operation, he said.

“A lot of people that are visiting from other states are [coming] to the airport because of the industrial and commercial presence in our community,” Jorgensen said.

Skidmore said the airport could play a vital role in selling Proximity Park, a more than 300-acre business park venture that is just getting off the ground.

“Being just a mile away could help when we show Proximity Park,” he said. “They really ought to compliment each other.”

The commissioners said this weekend’s Airport Fun Day, which runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, is an event to showcase the airport to the local community.

“Airport Days helps promote the airport and get the attention of the people,” Skidmore said. “Word of mouth spreads real quickly.”

A few of the details of the master plan includes lengthening the runway, building more T-hangers, improve lighting and making the airport be 100 percent sustainability.

“I don’t know if it will be a break-even enterprise, but we want to get close to that,” Skidmore said.

Jorgensen said the city transfers about $70,000 per year from the general fund to offset the airport expenses.

“I would hope eventually as we build up [the airport] we don’t have to transfer money from the general fund to be sustaining the airport,” he said.

Jorgensen said increasing the runway to a proposed 4,500 by 7,500 feet is necessary to handle small jets.

“Right now the jet aircraft need to have a longer runway in order to land and takeoff,” he said. “It takes awhile for them to get up speed. The extra feet will allow them to be able to do that. A lot of insurance companies will not allow the jets to land on a shorter runway. This will open it up to a larger field of people that can use our airport. It is another mode of transportation into our community. The airport is really one of the gateways to our community.”