Oakland County given state’s Loftiest Aviation award

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announces that Oakland County has been named 2010 Airport Sponsor of the Year by the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Aeronautics and Freight Services. Central Services Director J. David VanderVeen accepted the award on behalf of the county.

“First impressions are lasting impressions,” Patterson said. “Dave VanderVeen and his team have worked hard to make sure passengers who arrive at our three airports leave with the notion that Oakland County is a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

MDOT stated in a press release that “Oakland County was recognized for excellent service provided to aviation through the development of numerous airport safety, environmental and noise mitigation projects at Oakland County International Airport, and for airport safety and infrastructure preservation efforts at Oakland-Troy Airport and Oakland-Southwest Airport.”

Oakland County has initiated projects to make Oakland County International Airport less impactful on the environment. The county installed a fuel/water separator so aviation fuel will not leak into ground water or the sewer system. The county has invested in aircraft noise abatement, including a ground run-up enclosure. And this spring, the county will break ground on a new “green” terminal, the first in Michigan and the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building in Oakland County government.

The airports are also helping Oakland County’s economy. Oakland County International Airport in Waterford is the second busiest airport in Michigan, second only to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus. Last year, the airport serviced more than 500,000 passengers and nearly every Fortune 500 company. It currently has a $175 million economic impact on the region.

That impact is expected to grow with a recent main runway extension. In 2009, the county extended the International Airport’s main runway 320 feet to 6,520 feet. That means aircraft taking off from Waterford can now reach the west coast, Mexico, Europe and Asia without refueling. All are areas of future economic growth.

Upgrades and daily operations at Oakland County’s three airports do not cost taxpayers a penny. Airport improvements are funded through federal and state grants. Oakland County’s match to those grants and daily airport operations are funded by fees charged to pilots for services ranging from landing to fueling.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by the State of Michigan,” VanderVeen said. “Airport Manager Karl Randall and his staff have truly earned this recognition. They work around the clock to keep the airports operating.”