Four State Workers to Assist with Airport Projects
May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD
Four new state employees could become some of the best known staffers of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission while helping local economic development efforts at the same time.
The quartet, who will be known as aviation field representatives, will be assigned to assist sponsors of municipal and county airports throughout the state, helping cut red tape for state and federal construction grants. They also will make public appearances throughout their areas, helping to gain community support for airport projects.
Because airport growth generally is translated into economic growth, the field representatives also will provide valuable information for economic development planners and industrial recruiters, said Nancy Reese Barrett, the commission's deputy director.
"Most of that is not in their job descriptions, but that's what they will end up doing in reality," she said. "Their basic job will be to assist the local airport sponsors in obtaining grants for planning, project construction, expansion and final inspection. They will lead the sponsors through all the steps for both state and federal grants to ensure that something is not left out.
"Idea behind these positions is that by using a liaison person between the airport sponsor, the state agency and the federal agency, we will be able to leverage more federal dollars into Oklahoma for airport improvements."
The field representatives will set up operations in district offices of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, each working one quadrant of the state. Newly appointed to the jobs are Tom Graves, who will be in Perry, working with sponsors of 37 publicly owned airports and one heliport; Terry Jessup, Tulsa, who will work with 39 airport sponsors and those at a seaplane port; Rodney Clark, Clinton, who will work with 32 airports and a heliport; and Don Avilez, Ada, who will have 40 airports and a heliport under his supervision.
"All these men have aviation backgrounds, but they all are varied," Barrett said. "What we were looking for was someone who had some knowledge about a lot of subjects dealing with aviation, someone who could bring a new perspective to the job.
"I think we've found four good people to handle these jobs."
Although the four men are state employees, their salaries will come from planning grants awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates all aviation activities in the United States.
They are needed because too many sponsors of small airports do not understand fully what must be done to obtain FAA funding for expansion or improvement projects.
"Field representatives will work with the sponsors to help do the airport planning, both short and long range, for up to 20 years, fill out the applications and work through the FAA and state-only grant process," she said. "They also will work with the local sponsors to help them find contractors, consultants, suppliers, whatever they need to complete from planning through the final inspection.
"Because they will be so familiar with the projects, they'll also deal with economic development planners to let them know what's planned for the airport.
"After all, an airport must be fully accessible to everyone if business is to expand, and there must be a good airport if new business is to come in. These men will be aware of what's happening and the importance of an airport to the local economy," Barrett said. …