OGDEN — Ogden City says the long path to profitability at the municipal airport has finally begun.
Earlier this week, the Ogden City Council approved a resolution that designates a “Community Reinvestment Survey Area” at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport. The area encompasses a significant portion of airport property and several properties immediately east of it, along Airport Road, according to council documents.
Brandon Cooper, Ogden’s Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development, said designating the survey area is the first step in creating a full-fledged Community Reinvestment Area at the airport — an action that would freeze the tax valuation for all taxable properties in the survey area, and for 20 to 30 years, divert future property tax increases back into redevelopment projects there.
Known as Tax Increment Financing, the tool is often used by Ogden City as an incentive for developers to build.
The 720-acre airport site near Ogden’s western border provides private and business general aviation service, commercial air service and air ambulance service. It also serves as a reliever airport for the Salt Lake International Airport and for aircraft flying in and out of Hill Air Force Base. Cooper said several aerospace businesses also operate there, making the facility a key cog in Utah’s aerospace industry.
But for at least the past decade the airport has been somewhat of a boondoggle for the city, heavily subsidized, sometimes by as much as $750,000 a year.
A 2015 feasibility study called for expanded airport commercial air service, commercial-related business and according to Cooper, operations that would be “uniquely positioned to support the mission of Hill Air Force Base.”
The city says those operations, which would be tied to the base’s F-35 Lightning II program and F-16 maintenance program, wouldn’t be viable without significant upgrades to airport infrastructure.
Specific details about the project are still scarce, but Cooper said the airport CRA could include $350 million to $400 million in expenditures, adding approximately $300 million in taxable valuation at the airport. More details will be revealed as the plan moves forward. A tentative schedule for the process shows the council could vote on a project plan and budget as early as May 7.
“It’s a lengthy process with some public notice periods,” Cooper said. “We’ve been talking about redevelopment at the airport for years. The goal is to get as much impact and feedback as we can to make those changes as beneficial as possible.”
Council member Rich Hyer, a pilot and longtime patron of the airport, said establishing a CRA at the facility will be the needed push to make it profitable again.
“The Ogden airport is a rare, uncut gem,” he said. “It’s a great amenity and doing this (CRA) is going to attract some rare, uncut gem cutters to come and make this airport valuable.”