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Guest Opinion: Airport Commission explores economic impact

The Brainerd lakes region has a history of serving its residents and visitors with efficient modes of transportation, the first being the mighty Mississippi River. As time progressed, the area attracted roads and rail. The need for a more efficient way to travel emerged in 1903 as the Wright Brothers invented the first airplane capable of carrying passengers. The first airplane on record to visit Brainerd occurred in 1912.

Residents began to realize the importance of the new mode of transportation and discovered the need to develop an airfield. Crow Wing County and the city of Brainerd codified what is now known as the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission in 1946. The initial investment of both communities established three runways and a small building for area aviators.

Air service launched in 1949 through an airline called Wisconsin Central Airlines. The airport continued to expand in order to accommodate the rapidly changing technologies offered through aviation. Daily scheduled flights continue to serve the Brainerd lakes region with two scheduled flights through the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. These flights allow for over 200 convenient connections to global destinations.

The Airport recently studied its economic impact with the development of a 25-year master plan. An online calculator on MnDOT's Office of Aeronautics website estimated revenues and jobs initiated through airport activities. Using data from the airport based businesses, it was determined that airport activities contribute directly and indirectly $17,998,292 in revenues and over 290 jobs resulting in a return of over 57 times the amount invested by local municipalities.

The airport will continue to be a great economic asset over the next 25 years. Stay tuned for more information regarding the Airport Master Plan and how the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport will continue to serve the Brainerd lakes region.

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