Airport passengers board flight to Dallas

Passengers board a flight from the Victoria Regional Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The Victoria Sales Tax Development Corp. wants to help the Victoria Regional Airport soar.

During the Victoria Regional Airport commission’s monthly meeting Wednesday, William Blanchard, who was recently sworn in to the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corp. board and appointed as its president, said the corporation wants to do its part to support the airport as an asset in the community.

“Our job is to grow Victoria,” he said.

Blanchard said 90% or more of the sales tax funds are already committed primarily to infrastructure projects, but as the city manager said at the airport commission’s January meeting, the city wants to have a seat at the table.

With the remaining funds, Blanchard said the board has identified about 11 organizations or projects that deserve its attention, and the airport is “way, way at the top of that list.”

He said the sales tax board wants to fund half of the cost of a marketing study for the airport, which Lenny Llerena, the airport’s director, estimates will cost about $150,000. The airport commission has planned to pursue a marketing study, which will help the airport effectively market to businesses interested in coming to Victoria, once a study of the airport’s runway is complete.

Airport Commissioner Dennis Patillo said the sales tax corporation’s drive to be involved is a meaningful step forward to the future.

“Seeing coordination between the airport and the city and the county working together for all of Victoria is something that I think we’ve been wanting for some time,” he said. “This is significant.”

Blanchard said Llerena gave an informative presentation at the sales tax board meeting earlier this week, and he was pleased to see Victoria County commissioners on Monday give an additional $134,000 to match funds received from the Texas Department of Transportation for pavement improvements at the airport.

“There’s some momentum here,” Blanchard said.

He said the sales tax board asks that the airport commission make a request to the Victoria County commissioners for the county to pay the other 50% of the study. He said Victoria’s City Council will need to approve the sales tax corporation paying for half of the marketing study.

Caitlin Weinheimer, Victoria County Judge Ben Zeller’s chief of staff, told the commission Monday that the airport might have the funds for the other half in its own budget, so it might not need to request the funds from the county.

Patillo, however, said while it is appropriate for repair and maintenance issues to be paid from the airport’s budget, matters of economic development and marketing that will affect the entire region deserve to have countywide consideration.

Trey Ruschhaupt, airport commission chairman, said he was glad to see the tax board’s desire to contribute and play a role in the airport’s success. The commission plans to make the request to the county commissioners for half of the study’s cost.

“I’ve been sitting on this commission for a long time, through several airport managers and several county judges, and this is the first time that I’ve seen everyone work together for a common good, and it’s exciting,” Ruschhaupt said.

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

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