Lost in the many health and economic challenges facing our elected leadership, the Napa County Board of Supervisors will soon be making a decision that will have a significant impact on our community.
Before them are competing visions of remaking our Napa community airport into an asset that will reach its full potential to provide increased revenue to the county to pay for critical public safety and community services. The importance of this outcome is magnified as we face the economic challenges of COVID-19 and its long-term aftermath.
Lynx-Napa, who took over operations of our airport from The Jet Center in 2018, has proven to be an excellent community partner improving the airport’s operations immediately and investing in our community. From Day 1, Lynx-Napa has invested over $1.4 million in our airport to improve operations, provide environmentally friendly equipment, and other upgrades to services. They have also invested in our people, raising the salaries of all team members living in Napa County to above living wage, which account for over $400,000 in salary increases for members of our community.
Now they have presented a vision for the next three decades to modernize our airport to the benefit of all. Immediately, the adoption of Lynx’s vision will mean $5 million in increased revenue for public services and the immediate creation of construction jobs for local workers. Over the life of their 30-year plan, the modernized airport will mean $100 million in increased revenue for our community.
These immediate and long-term funds are critical for our county that has been forced by the COVID-19 economy to dip deeply into its reserves and postpone important road, bridge, and other infrastructure repairs needed due to past fire damage.
Not only will the Lynx-Napa vision and commitment to our community mean more financial resources, immediate and future jobs, but it will also create an asset to make us proud of the airport’s front door to our community for business and visitors to the Napa Valley.
The construction will produce an airport at the cutting edge of environmental sustainability reaching LEED gold status. The new airport facility will include a new park and restaurant for us all to enjoy the airport and its atmosphere. Lynx-Napa is further committing a dedicated revenue stream from its profits to charities that provide important services to our community, along with a dedicated scholarship fund at the aviation school for local students. This vision and commitment from an already existing civic partner bring concrete benefits to us in real time.
Lynx-Napa also is our partner in safety and has demonstrated the capacity to provide fuel to fire personnel, National Guard and first responders in the event of a wildfire or other natural disasters. The company’s future vision includes the construction of additional hangar space, which could be used for emergency operations and shelter, and the storage of firefighting and rescue aircraft.
Even given the clear benefit to working with Lynx now, Napa County has embarked on a review of a second vision; one based on the flawed idea that splitting our small airport into two separate operators will somehow improve its value as a public asset. We deserve a world-class airport to serve as a global destination for wine tourism, not more ‘metal boxes’ across the airport.
Studies done by outside parties reinforce that the right direction is a complete and unified campus redevelopment, which creates the best use of land for Napa County. A report by KPMG stated that Napa County Airport business levels do not support investment of two airport operators, even in a strong economy.
The two-operator strategy would call for duplication in infrastructure, creating unnecessary costs, and reduced efficiency leading to an adverse impact on the environment. Furthermore, this strategy cannot match the short or long-term revenue commitments in the Lynx-Napa plan. Allowing one or two new operators in under this model will require the county to accept less revenue as these uninitiated operators try to establish their business operations.
I have had the pleasure of welcoming many guests and associates to Napa Valley over the years. And while Napa is a great destination, the airport is not representative of our community. I believe the Lynx development plan improves visitors’ first impressions of Napa Valley, and creates a great entry hall to the wine country experience.
The choice is clear - to create all the benefits of a true 21st century Napa airport our county Board of Supervisors should reject a two-operator structure, and select the Lynx-Napa vision, as Lynx have proven they are truly willing to invest in our community.