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Wednesday
Apr302014

More thoughts on the airport

After the Brainerd Daily Dispatch ran Chuck Marohn's commentary on the airport project, their editorial board followed it up with an opinion endorsing the project

Here is Chuck's response.

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I read the Dispatch editorial this weekend. Thank you for taking my thoughts seriously. This community needs a higher level of dialog on these kind of projects.

To that point, I felt you mischaracterized the project and, by extension, my opinion on it. You presented a false choice when you asserted the following:

The choices before our government officials are a stop-gap project such as a water tank and pump system or the extension of city water and sewer from Brainerd.

There are many ways the airport can go about providing adequate water pressure for fire protection. A water tank and pump is one option. This would be a permanent solution, not a stop gap as you represent. It would last longer than the roof on the terminal, the paved parking lot and even the runway. Nobody involved describes any of those improvements as “stop gap”.

There is a subtle and insidious reason for that label and it goes to the core of my argument: the reason the water tank and pump are derided as “stop gap” is because they don’t provide capacity for additional growth. They address the fire marshal’s concerns and that is it.

So where an expenditure of “well into six figures” would solve the pressing problem, we are prepared to spend over seven million to provide opportunities for additional growth. That’s one strategy. The conversation I think this community should be having is about the value of that strategy.

Some questions that are not being asked, let alone answered:

  • Is spending $6+ million on new growth at the airport a good return-on-investment? What are the long term liabilities to the city and what revenue is going to offset them? How secure is that revenue and how much risk is the city assuming in this transaction?
  • Are there other things the city can do that would provide a better return on our time and resources?
  • How will the residents of Brainerd benefit from all the time, energy and resources we are spending to induce new growth on the east side of town?

We agree that Brainerd is “very much tied to the economic health of the surrounding region,” but the region is also tied to the health of Brainerd. Brainerd can meet their regional obligation long-term with a modest investment. For the good of the region, Brainerd also needs to be making investments that improve the city’s financial health. It should not be making low return investments on the far reaches of town in the hopes growth will happen. That’s an outdated idea, a strategy that clearly hasn’t created growth and prosperity for Brainerd, despite the tens of millions already spent on it.

I don’t “skirt around the very real problem facing the Brainerd airport.” I clearly understand that the problem isn’t a lack of growth but the need to address the water pressure mandate. Let’s prudently address that problem and then focus our growth energies on strategies that have a higher likelihood of being successful in actually benefitting the city’s residents and business owners.

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Reader Comments (1)

Sad to see Brainerd's leadership stuck in the Old Economy way of thinking. Hopefully they get their act together on this and adopt a reasonable approach.

May 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
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