ST. CLOUD -- The St. Cloud Regional Airport is an asset to central Minnesota, but it needs to grow. That's the findings of a recently completed study.

Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation President Patti Gartland says the study found the airport produces an overall economic impact to the tri-county area of over $44 million and supports nearly 300 jobs.

However, it operates at a loss with a projected deficit of nearly $875,000 last year.

The study suggests the airport needs to improve business operations and increase revenues. One way to raise money is to start charging for parking. Gartland says a survey of airport users indicates a willingness to pay a small fee.

What their tolerance level would be for paying for some amount of fee for parking.  The tolerance level that they actually found was that we could easily sustain a $5 per day parking fee.  That's taking a very conservative approach to it.

A parking fee could generate an estimated $60,000 to $145,000 per year.

The study says other ways increase revenue include modifying the rates and charges, re-establish an aviation program with our local schools, and increased air service.

The recently completed study is also advocating for the changing of the airport's governance model from being city owned to an independent regional Airport Authority.  Gartland says cooperation is nothing new for this area.

We've got a lot of cities and three counties, we've had a lot of experience and have a lot of really good examples of joint powers agreements that have been put in place amongst the counties and cities.  I think we're positioned very well.

Gartland says the study goes on to say the airport must be run with a business mindset. She says it may be necessary for the airport to hire an additional staff member with expertise in marketing.

Gartland says the money for the comprehensive study was allocated from the State Legislature two years ago, and it was conducted over the course of last year.

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