NORTH BEND -- Southwest Oregon Regional Airport is one step closer to paying off the $20 million bill for its terminal building.
The airport received a $1 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday, another chunk of its multi-year grant to pay off the construction of its terminal building six years ago.
"It's the last million dollars of our entitlement that we're using toward the debt reduction," said airport executive director Theresa Cook.
The rest of the debt will be paid over 20 years out of the airport's operating revenue. Those payments could stretch out to 2024 or 2025, she said, unless the airport is able to pay off more early to save on interest.
The next annual entitlements the airport receives will go toward construction of a new firefighting station, she said. Construction likely won't begin for a few years as the airport saves those grant funds.
Cook wasn't at the helm when the terminal project began, but it fell in line with trends across the industry, she said.
"Generally, there is a shopping list of items an airport tries to do to be competitive: have a nice control tower, a terminal to accommodate your traffic," she said. "At the time this was completed, it was in a peak around the country where everyone was experiencing traffic growth, from 2007 to 2008. Since then around the country (during the Great Recession), they have all experienced the same reduction, but it's starting to climb up again."
SkyWest Airlines and SeaPort Airlines currently operate out of North Bend's airport. SkyWest is the regional operator for Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and sometimes Alaska Airlines. SeaPort provides service to and from Portland, regularly carrying passengers making their way to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
"Whoever we'd go after for air service, SkyWest would be the provider," Cook said. "That said, we do have some things on the horizon I'm not able to speak publicly about because airline negotiations are not public until they are announced. If one airline knows what another is going to do before they do it, it's kind of like in the stock market where people do insider trading because they know what's going to happen."
The airport is "working closely" with SkyWest and Seaport to expand air service, she said, and a Small Community Air Service Development Program grant could help the airport leverage expanded service to California.
"Right now, we have a 50-50 chance to get that through LAX or another city in mid-California or the southern California area," she said. "For instance, LAX is predominantly the traffic that comes through San Francisco to get here."
Southwest Oregon Regional Airport is one of two in southwestern Oregon that received FAA Airport Improvement Program grants this week. The city of Roseburg also received $1.3 million to repair apron and taxiway pavement at Roseburg Regional Airport.