It is the busy season at Montrose Regional Airport with most passengers headed to ski at Telluride. A record number of passengers headed to the airport last year which is giving many in the community hope for the future.
"To see those kind of increased numbers means a great deal economically," Montrose County Commissioner Greg Ellis said.
Last year, 8,000 more passengers took off and landed at the airport compared to 2009. The increased numbers could be due to increased tourism. But one thing is for sure, they are translating into more and more commercial jetliners landing here.
"We've made a decision as the county and the commissioners to really invest in the airport," Ellis said.
Ellis says a 2007 state report suggested the airport was responsible for pumping $330 million into the community each year. With ridership gaining ever since, county leaders only expect that number to go up. "That's going to be re-done in 2012," he said. "I think the numbers are going to be even considerably higher."
At the airport, they believe that you have to invest in something for it to ultimately pay off. That is why all of these construction projects continue to move forward. The ultimate hope is to add more commercial flights to the area, thus improving passenger traffic and the economic impact locally.
"We're very pleased with the direction it is going," Ellis said.
Demand for the airport has increased significantly over the last decade, as well. Montrose Regional currently flies to and from cities like Atlanta, Houston, L.A., and Chicago.
"Those here in the community have put a high priority on the airport and the valued benefit it has to the community," he said.
Ellis says it's the result of good work so far that should pay off with more federal funding. "It all adds up."
Current construction projects like the new terminal, taxiway, parking lot improvements, and TSA mandated security fence should be completed by the end of this year. And already, the county is planning even more work.
We tried to contact Grand Junction Regional Airport to get an idea of their 2010 numbers, but there we could not get in touch with them.