Victoria Regional Airport runway

In this Advocate file photo, clouds are seen drifting over the Victoria Regional Airport, partially covering it in shadow.

Victoria Regional Airport commissioners are pursuing ways to promote the airport as an asset for economic development and area growth.

During their monthly meeting Thursday, commissioners reviewed the airport’s year-end numbers and commended its staff on the airport ending 2019 with a profit.

“I think the song that I’m trying to sing is that the airport is not a money pit of losses,” said Airport Commissioner Buddy Billups. “It is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for investment.”

During the meeting, Billups summarized the airport’s operating profits or losses from 2015 to 2019. In 2015, the airport ended the year with a loss of about $174,900. It continued to operate at a loss annually until 2018, when it made a profit of about $118,500. In 2019, the airport ended the year with a profit of about $223,300.

“As you can see, the trend is good,” he said.

The 2019 numbers do not include any money from new rentals or increased rates of leases at the airport, the commissioners said.

Billups credited the positive change to the airport’s management and staff, noting that current airport director Lenny Llerena began his job in 2017.

Knowing that the airport is no longer operating at an annual loss, the commissioners planned to create a formal capital budget to help organize priorities and finances to fund projects.

“You can’t manage something you can’t measure, and this is an opportunity for us to really see what we’re doing and where we’re going, and an opportunity to plan for the future,” said Trey Ruschhaupt, the airport commission chairman.

The commission created a capital budget committee. Ruschhaupt appointed Billups to serve as chairman and Airport Commissioner Jim Hartman and County Commissioner Gary Burns to serve as members.

Also during the meeting, the commissioners discussed getting a marketing study done for the airport. As a result of gathering in November, the airport commission decided to have a study done about the airport’s runway. The study will help inform staff about the limitations of the airport and its runway, which is a necessary starting point when working with companies interested in coming to Victoria.

The airport commissioners said a marketing study is the next step in that effort.

Currently, Ruschhaupt said, when a company looks to the airport and asks questions, it first asks what the runway can handle, and second, it asks “what do you have and what are you going to do for me?” The marketing study will help answer the second question, he said.

Ruschhaupt said it would be important for the airport to involve other entities, such as the Victoria Economic Development Corporation and the city, as it moves forward with the marketing study.

City Manager Jesús Garza, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said the city is “committed to having a seat at the table.”

“We recognize that the airport is an extremely important asset to our community, and however we can help, we’re willing to be part of that conversation,” he said.

Airport Commissioner Dennis Patillo said the study should have a narrow focus on companies that could come to Victoria. Commissioners said they planned to wait until they get the results of the runway study in a few months before beginning the marketing study.

“My hope, my vision for a marketing strategy is one that is results-oriented, not aspirationally oriented,” Patillo said.

The commissioners commended representatives from other entities for attending the meeting and partnering in the airport’s efforts.

“That’s the only way we can do it, is do it together,” Ruschhaupt said.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter.

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