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"Opinion: New Hampshire airport is lifeline to attracting business"

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The airport is our lifeline to attracting business
By John McGauley 
The Keene (NH) Sentinel

Seems a city council member now thinks our airport is unnecessary, a burden to 
residents near it and a general nuisance.
So, so wrong. We should be clutching on to our airport like grim death; it's 
one of the only things we have that could save our sad little economy that will 
soon suffer a near-death experience when one of our big legacy companies brings 
in the moving trucks overnight and vanishes, leaving behind only a news release 
and the toll-free number to an outplacement firm.
It's not Keene's airport, it's a regional airport - the only one. Regional, as 
in a 60-mile radius.

Residents of the Edgewood neighborhood are upset that trees had to be cut down 
next to their neighborhood so pilots would have an easier time taking off and 
landing. But the airfield was there before the neighborhood, so for the past 50 
to 60 years, developers, real estate agents and prospective buyers obviously 
knew it was there. It's hard to hide.

Without an airport of that size and sophistication there would be few, if any, 
companies even looking at us. Come on, we're a small burb two hours from Boston 
and far off on our own, Dillant Hopkins Airport our only corridor to the 
outside world. We have no highways, the railroads left so long ago that the 
only people who remember them live in Langdon Place, and we have no coordinated 
and aggressive regional economic development campaign. None.

Again, it's not Keene's airport, but the region's only big airport: for 
Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Putney and Springfield, Vt.; for Peterborough, 
Hillsborough and Keene in New Hampshire; even for some Massachusetts locales. 
When will we marshal all those cities into a drive to chip in money to an 
aggressive campaign to develop that airport?

It's not about using the airport to entice commercial airlines to fly here. 
They're not going to do that, we don't have the million people they need to 
make it worth their time. And it's not about the owners of small prop planes 
that use the airport.

It's all about two things: corporate aviation and warehouse operations. 
Corporate. Companies do not locate in places where there is no convenient and 
fully equipped airport with hangars for corporate jets and warehouses adjacent 
to airports. Period. We already have two strikes against us - no rail and no 
highways - so why cut our own throat (mixed metaphor alert) and not play the 
only face card we have in our hand?

The region's airport a nuisance? Hardly.

Some readers have griped about this column, one of them from Winchester saying 
we dissed them unfairly (we did), and another asking why we live here if we 
dislike it so.

We live here because we ended up here 29 years ago, drunk and shanghaied from a 
tavern in Pensacola, Fla., waking up in the back of a pickup truck at the old 
Valley Green Motel in Keene. That's not true, of course; we took a job here. 
Life is random; it could have been Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Starkville, Miss. We 
stayed because we made good and accumulated a bunch of fine friends who have 
never once asked us to lend them money.

Dislike Keene and the region? Not at all; we enjoy it, and the column has often 
mentioned the vicissitudes of the area, such as the Keene Family YMCA; the 
Monadnock Food Co-op; the fact that most of the region's roads are paved; and 
three out of every four can read, some pretty well.

So, to satisfy those readers who think we're too negative, here are some very 
positive things about the area.

Just kidding. If you want that, go to the chamber of commerce, they'll hand you 
a brochure. This is a newspaper column, and nobody will read it if it's a puff 
piece. It's designed to ruffle some feathers, poke a little fun, get people 
talking and, sometimes, make a point. We strive to be the equivalent of the guy 
in the back of the class who slouches in the desk, never has a pen and makes 
snarky and funny comments to the other slackers - the guy whose parents are 
always told that he doesn't perform up to his potential. He's neither a team 
player nor a Boy Scout, and contributes the minimum to get by. You know, like 
many of the people you know. Or you.

The world is divided into those who make a beeline to the back of the class and 
those who primly take their place up front. We're in back. Meet us after school 
and we'll copy homework from one of the kids in front.
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