IYK budget reflects activity, growth

New fuel farm, restoration of commuter air service on track for this fiscal year

IYK budget reflects activity, growthINYOKERN, CA — A 50-percent leap in revenue and a slate of projects that will continue infrastructure improvements at Inyokern Airport were depicted in the budget for fiscal year 2014-15 passed this week by the Indian Wells Valley Airport District Board of Directors.

“We had a great year at the airport,” said IYK General Manager Scott Seymour. “I know the loss of commuter air service was an inconvenience for our community — and we are working on restoring that now — but we had a lot of great things happen that will allow us to continue reinvesting into what is quickly becoming an important economic engine for our valley.”

The budget synopsis prepared by staff showed that last year the airport generated $1.58 million in revenue — up from about $1.06 million the year before.

Seymour noted that the most significant growth was in the area of fuel sales and tenant leases.

“We are still a popular site for film crews, but we have also seen a lot more activity in staging defense-related operations out of IYK.”

Seymour said that the additional revenue that came into the airport has also generated benefits for hotels, apartments, restaurants, rental companies and more. “I don’t know how many thousands of hotel rooms were booked last year, but that TOT goes straight into our city. Then everyone eats in our restaurants and shops in our stores, which feeds into sales tax.

“And that doesn’t even count the semipermanent tenants who are occupying rental units by the dozen.”

Seymour said that one defense contractor in particular, TaSM (Technology and Supply Management), has relocated about 30 employees to the area, in addition to hiring another half dozen, to refurbish equipment coming out of Afghanistan.

“Our remote location and flexible staff are the perfect solution for a lot of companies like this. I think this is one component of our local economy that remains largely untapped, and we hope to bring in more.”

Seymour told his board that he was planning conservatively for the future, including reducing next year’s projections and making plans to reinvest or save the influx from last year.

One significant improvement in the next year will be the installation of a new fuel farm.

“The airport was indirectly hurt by the loss of commuter service, since the enplanements were what qualified us for $1 million annually in FAA entitlement money,” said Seymour. “The silver lining is that the loss made us qualify for a new fuel farm, which will be paid for by an FAA grant and district match.”

That project will not disrupt the current service, but will yield future savings in maintenance costs. “Right now our tanks are underground – which are much more expensive to service. Our new ones will be built above ground,” said Seymour.

“ I think Inyokern Airport will continue to do well. Our tenants and visiting crews have given us very positive feedback, and we are doing everything we can to improve our ability to support that work.”

Seymour noted that at the same time the airport is seeing an increase in commercial activity, the general aviation population is seeing a boom — driven in part by the establishment of a new flight school at IYK.

“Our local pilots have long been the backbone of our airport, so we look forward to keeping their access as unrestricted as possible, while giving them the benefit of our pristine runways and other infrastructure.”

“I hope the local folks that are impacted by the loss of air service will understand that it takes a while for an airline to add a route to their operations,” said Board President Russ Bates.

However, the district is working with two prospects who may be in operation as early as next spring, he said. The airport has also submitted a grant application that will help subsidize a new airline until passenger loads reach viable levels.

“I would also invite the public to drive through the airport once in a while and just see the activity there,” said Bates.

Inyokern Airport stages fire-support operations out of the north ramp. Even without commuter air service, General Manager Scott Seymour reports a flurry of activity at IYK.

- Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2014-07-23