Task force suggests Springfield-Branson National Airport be governed by regional airport authority

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release) -- City leaders in Springfield will have the final say on a report suggesting whether the city should turn the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport into a standalone regional airport authorities.

A nine-member task force comprised of representatives appointed by City Council presented its report Dec. 4. The report outlined to the Council the pros and cons of transferring the Springfield-Branson National Airport’s governance and ownership to a regional airport authority or similar model.

The task force made the following recommendations to City Council:

-That steps be taken to migrate the governance structure of the Springfield-Branson National Airport from a city department to a standalone regional airport authority.
-That during such conversion process, existing airport employees be recognized as a significant asset and experience no reduction in pay or benefits as a result of this change.
-That the city retain the current process to appoint airport board members, but changes be made to allow greater regional representation.
-That an airport authority Implementation committee be established and made up of qualified professionals to recommend specific steps needed to complete this process.
-The airport authority Implementation committee would analyze factors such as asset ownership, debt coverage, access to capital, employee benefits, migration method and how the airport would take over the services currently provided by the city, such as issuing bonds and hiring employees.

The task force stressed to council the exploration was not conducted due to problems with current governance, but that they felt a change could help the airport by allowing it to streamline decisions, be more entrepreneurial and have greater flexibility to respond to the unique and dynamic aviation industry.

“We applaud city council for taking the steps to assemble this task force to complete a comprehensive review to explore this possibility,” task force member Jim Anderson said.

Known as a city “enterprise fund,” the airport already operates somewhat independently because it receives no tax support and is self-sufficient, Anderson said. It has an annual economic impact of approximately $500 million, has 100 full-time employees, contains 40 businesses, has its own police and fire departments, and is expected to serve 1 million passengers in 2018. Last year, the airport served a record-breaking 993,129 passengers.

Approximately 41 percent of the top 100 airports in the U.S. are operated by airport authorities. Eight of those have transitioned from municipally operated entities since 2000, with none having transitioned back.

The task force did not recommend a timeline for the transition. According to Weiler, the transition may require a change to the city charter and review by an implementation team.