The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 13, 2012

Rahall dedicates Mingo airport

By Staff Reports
The Register-Herald

— Atop a former strip mines site, Rep. Nick Rahall helped dedicate the new Mingo County Air Transportation Park with a warning Friday that a Paul Ryan budget would hurt such endeavors in the future.

Rahall, D-W.Va., described small airports as job creators and said the entire nation prospers when they fare well.

“These small airports are large local lifelines serving everything from law enforcement and military matters to emergency medical transport,” the 3rd District congressman said.

“Business and industry and tourism depend on them. Each of them is an important link in strengthening our nation’s transportation system. And quite like the strongest chain, our nation is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Over a decade, he said, a budget passed by the Republican-controlled House and named after Ryan, the vice presidential candidate, would cost West Virginia some $108 million in aviation funds and $1.5 billion in highway money.

And that could doom a full-service airport by knocking out plans for a terminal building, a fueling station and hangars, he said.

“Those Washington budget whackers, who are too shortsighted to see the long-term benefits of federal investments in this airport, in the King Coal Highway, in our water and wastewater systems, and in broadband deployment, fail the future of our country,” Rahall said.

“Rather than growing our economy by investing in our infrastructure, the basic building blocks of short-term and long-term jobs, across-the-board budget cuts to aviation and highways that some seem eager to impose would devastate the progress we have made.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also D-W.Va., who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, helped secure more than $8 million in the airport improvement program funding to develop the Mingo County facility.

“I’ve spent my entire career in the Senate working on improving West Virginia’s air transportation network because I’ve witnessed firsthand the incredible impact airports can have on local economic development,” he said.

“More than that, they are a source of pride in the community and open rural areas up to the world. I am so excited to see this new airport up and running.”

The dedication comes in advance of a two-day tour next Monday and Tuesday by members of the West Virginia Senate and House finance committee to visit reclaimed mine sites to showcase the conversion of such property to educational and commercial uses.

House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, is hosting the event.