Study examines economic impact of Arkansas airports

TEXARKANA, Ark. - Arkansas airports generate more than $3.5 billion to the state's economy.

A recent study is helping improve safety and service to all of the state's 90 airports.

Texarkana Regional Webb Field is one of eight commercial airports in the state.

According to the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics, the local airport contributes more than $88 million to the state and local economy.

"The airport is a very important piece of the economic engine in the region and the community," explained Mark Mellinger, Texarkana Regional Airport Director.

Mellinger says they employ about 650 people.

He's says they've weathered tough times, but they're growing again.

Later this fall, the airport is expected to break ground on a new $7 million dollar taxiway and a new terminal in the spring of 2020.

He's says the upgrades are part of the Arkansas Airport System Plan.

"If we don't keep up with technological standard, we're going to fall behind. We might not be able to service the aircraft coming out now," said Mellinger.

There are 82 general aviation airports in Arkansas.

They're used for business, the military, agriculture, and other general aviation activities.

Ronnie Rogers is the owner of Garland Aviation.

He uses aviation to help farmers grow and sustain their crops.

"I think it's the difference between them making it and not making it," said Rogers.

Arkansas is the number one producer of rice in the United States.

The Arkansas rice industry contributes more than $4 billion to the state's economy each year.

In addition to fertilizing the fields, Garland Aviation provides insecticides, which keep weeds and pest from destroying crops.

"It's like a fire going across the field. In some cases, in 24 hours it will totally wipe a crop out. We are pretty much 911 at that time," explained Rogers.

He uses three different county airports in a 60 mile radius.

Rogers says the airports play a vital role not only his business, but his customers.

"The further away I get away from a job site the more it's going to cost, said Rogers. It's dollars per hour."

Rogers' business stays busy almost year-round.

He says the aircraft and airports aid farmers in producing a safe, affordable and abundant supply of food.

Large or small, airports not only move people and services, Mellinger says their the largest investments a city and region can make.

"If you have a good airport and airlines and good connections, then you'll have a lot more economic activity in your region," said Mellinger.

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