Ankeny's New Airport

ANKENY'S NEW AIRPORT Economic development effort prospers, centered around a new GA airport by John F. Infanger ANKENY, IA - Ten years ago, a drive north of Des Moines revealed farmland and little else. Today, the exit off I-35 to...


ANKENY'S NEW AIRPORT

Economic development effort prospers, centered around a new GA airport
by John F. Infanger

ANKENY, IA - Ten years ago, a drive north of Des Moines revealed farmland and little else. Today, the exit off I-35 to Ankeny leads one to malls, industrial development, and a vibrant general aviation airport, which have all come about as the result of a concerted economic development program put together by Polk County and the cities of Ankeny, Altoona, and Bondurant.

Dave Joens
Jeff Denniston
Dave Joens, transportation planning Manager
Jeff Denniston, Exec 1 Aviation director of business development

For this article, representatives of Ankeny, the county, local businesses, the Iowa DOT, and the fixed base operator all gathered to tell the Ankeny Regional Airport story. The group even included a weatherman from the CBS affiliate in Des Moines who bases his aircraft here and often promotes aviation during his broadcasts.

According to officials, the airport initiative actually began in 1973 when a regional authority was exploring a site to possibly replace Des Moines International Airport, for which Ankeny Regional today serves as a reliever. While that initiative eventually died, officials in Ankeny and Polk County saw the potential for a general aviation airport that could be a central element in future economic development. In the mid-80s, the Ankeny Industrial Development Corporation commissioned a feasibility study to be conducted by Jerry Searle, a senior project planner with Snyder & Associates.

Explains Jeff Segin, the former Ankeny city manager and longtime airport authority member, "From an economic development perspective, we knew it would be a good thing not only for Ankeny but for northeastern Polk County. That report was very positive, and it evolved into a formal master plan which was submitted and the project was subsequently approved by the Federal Aviation Administration."

Segin says that FAA has pumped some $12 million into the airport. "The state was an important player as well," he says, "and initially funded some $1.1 million in infrastructure out here to get the ball rolling."

Locally, the project came to fruition because of a multi-tiered jurisdictional approach, say officials. Polk County and the three cities agreed to levy property taxes (15 cents/$1,000) that remain in effect today to fund the airport's operation.

Says Searle, "The multi-tiered approach was a key factor in the success of the airport. Otherwise, it probably would have been a difficult thing to get accomplished."

According to Segin, state law allows the independent Polk County Airport Authority, which operates the airport, to levy as much as 27 cents per $1,000 valuation, but a self-imposed limit of 15 cents was enacted when the authority was created.

Comments Dr. Ken Sand, current authority chairman, "With multiple jurisdictions, everybody comes to the table with different interests, but overall it's been good for the area. Altoona has elected to opt out of the authority once the initial bonds are paid off (in 2004). They were a big part of the development and a big part of the initial success, but now as they look at it they probably think it's going to continue without their 15 cents and perhaps they should invest that money elsewhere."

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