The executive director of the Central Illinois Regional Airport, Carl Olson, sees brighter days ahead for the airport. While waiting on the state's decision about its enterprise zone expansion, the board is now proactively looking for other development possibilities for 700 acres of land around the airport, like hotels and restaurants.
"The ability for the airport authority to leverage opportunities with an enterprise zone makes the property more attractive. It also makes it more competitive,” said Olson.
A deal, three-plus years in the making, with carrier FedEx was struck in early May. That prompted the enterprise zone expansion. Now, it has city leaders excited for the potential.
"(It’s) One of the many tools that allow you to leverage development that might not have occurred in the absence of that incentive,” said Bloomington mayor Tari Renner.
"The first priority for the airport authority is just to see if there's a way that our organization can help spur or incite more private investment in the area,” said Olson.
Olson says the airport board is looking at two criteria for the new developments. One, compatibility with the airport, and two, complement the entire Bloomington-Normal community.
"Usually that wouldn't be terribly conducive to it any way, where you might have it under a runway or storage facilities. I don't think that's a hotel project, but there are other opportunities there,” said Renner.
Renner says work on the edges of town will help develop Bloomington's downtown. Plus, Olson says a new revenue stream from private investors could ease the financial burden on the community
"If that allows us to de-emphasize the use of tax revenue, to operate the airport, that's a win-win. It's a win for the community, it's a win for travelers, and a win for the airport authority,” said Olson.
CIRA should receive official notification from the State of Illinois in the next couple of months.
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