There's been plenty of buzz about Worcester Regional Airport recently: Its federally funded master plan is near completion. The courtship of corporate, commercial and general aviation by the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, and city officials is heating up. Dozens of developers are responding to requests for proposals for building new hangars and other facilities.
But make no mistake: The success of all of those activities, and the airport's future, hinges entirely on the continued involvement of Massport, the city's stalwart partner on Airport Hill. The agreement between the city and the authority expires next June.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Massport - and not just because it has picked up much of the municipal airport's operating deficits.
As operator of Logan International and Hanscom airports, it has resources, political clout and expertise Worcester's airport could never match on its own.
As the keystone of New England's air transportation system, Massport is uniquely positioned to identify and nurture niche services that will play a pivotal role in making the airport financially self-sustaining.
Massport officials remain convinced Worcester's airport is a vital aviation resource and have indicated eagerness to stay involved. Indeed, the critical talks leading to a new operating agreement already are under way.
Among the issues on the table is exactly what form Massport's involvement will take. That it will continue to operate the facility should go without saying.
Beyond that is the possibility that Massport would at some point assume physical control of the airport - by taking title, perhaps, or via an extended $1-a-year lease arrangement.
That would mean, for Massport, flexibility to plan and undertake long-term development strategies and, for Worcester, assurance that the agency's involvement would continue - in short, a winning outcome for Massport, Worcester and the region's air transportation system.
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