Ready for takeoff

As the jets roar off the runway, visitors to the Medford airport have seen new businesses take off all around it in the past five years.

"I think it's just been dormant for a long time," said Carl Artner, who has a total of seven projects either completed or in the works in the vicinity of the airport.

Artner, of the commercial construction firm C.A. Artner Co. of Central Point, said many of the projects he's heard about have been planned for some time, but he said improvements to both Table Rock Road and Vilas Road have been a boon to development.

The most visible project under way at the airport is the $35 million terminal on the site of the old short-term parking lot.

Other projects visible from Biddle Road include the Million Air Center and the Executive Flight Center under construction behind the Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker.

Artner is involved in the building two Sky Way Air Freight Terminal buildings that each will occupy 23,000 square feet. The total construction cost will be about $2 million and the building should be completed early next year.

Located south of the FedEx building on Terminal Spur Road, the buildings will handle cargo moving in and out of the airport.

The freight terminals will be built with private money, while new aprons for cargo aircraft will be constructed with a portion of $72.1 million in state lottery bond proceeds that have been dedicated to financing non-highway transportation projects around Oregon.

Artner said Medford has turned into a regional airport, closing in on passenger volumes with the Eugene airport.

In 2004, Eugene was ahead of Medford by 36 percent in passenger traffic. Since then Medford has closed the gap. So far, this year, the difference is 17 percent.

Artner said development could be slowed around the east side of the airport because of plans to build a Highway 62 bypass. "There's a ton of land over there, but there are a lot of wetlands," he said.

Ron Fox, director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., said he expects foreign freight traffic to increase out of the airport in the future.

Also an Air Service Advisory Committee member, Fox said that one limiting factor of the airport is the limited amount of flights of less than 500 miles, particularly for flights to the San Francisco area.

He said more flights to those areas would encourage both executive and tourist travel to Medford.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, flights of 500 miles or less became problematic because of the time spent in airports. He said a passenger often loses at least an hour at both ends of the flight, making it tempting to drive.

Airport Director Bern Case said the airport growth has been spurred by both the general economy of the area and its ability to attract new business — as well as the improved air service.

"There is a synergy there," he said.

It also helps that the area boasts a large retirement community that relies on a nearby airport to visit family or go on vacations.

Case said the airport grounds also are quite large at 1,000 acres, more than Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

All that land allows for hangar-expansion projects and the potential for a parallel runway that would allow more air traffic.

Case expects more direct flights in the future that will benefit the local economy.

"The better the air service you have the better the community does," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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