Aircraft manufacturing mogul Clyde Cessna might not have built his highly successful company in Enid, where he got his start in aviation, but flying has become a prime driver of the city’s economy in the 21st century nonetheless.
According to the Oklahoma Aviation and Aerospace Economic Impact Study, released Monday by Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, aviation contributes nearly $1 billion dollars annually to the economy of Enid and Garfield County.
A press conference to discuss highlights of the report was held Thursday morning in the joint use hangar at Enid Woodring Regional Airport.
The report revealed Woodring pumps $29.2 million into the local economy every year, while the annual economic impact of Vance Air Force Base is $925 million.
Woodring has a total employment of 293.3, which includes direct, indirect and induced, a total annual payroll of $11.3 million and total annual spending of $17.8 million.
Vance’s total direct, indirect and induced employment total is 6,310. The base has a total annual payroll of $301 million, with total annual spending of $624 million.
Dan Ohnesorge, airport manager at Woodring, cited the close partnership between Vance and Woodring, evidence of which are the hangar in which the press conference was held, the improved apron area nearby and the airport’s runway, which was lengthened to 8,000 feet to accommodate more Vance aircraft. All were the result of joint military-civilian partnerships. Vance planes account for approximately 18,000 aircraft movements per year, and the military purchased 174,000 gallons of jet fuel from the airport last year, Ohnesorge said.
“These are just a few of the tangible examples of how the presence of Vance Air Force Base has had a positive influence on the city of Enid and on Woodring Regional Airport,” said Ohnesorge, who was a member of the OAC economic impact study project advisory committee.
Vic Bird, director of the state aeronautics commission, cited Cessna when recounting Enid’s aviation heritage. It took Cessna 14 tries to get his first aircraft, called Silverwing and made of spruce and linen, into the air above Northwest Oklahoma, Bird said.
“People pretty much laughed at him around here,” said Bird. “Once he got airborne he was kind of a hero and became known as the Birdman of Enid.”
Cessna tried and failed to get loans from Enid bankers to build his planes, so he moved his operation to Wichita, Kan. But that didn’t keep other Oklahoma aviation pioneers like Wiley Post from turning the state into a center for aviation.
“Previous generations have provided us a great foundation to build upon,” said Bird. “Today, airports, off-airport aviation and aerospace businesses, which number 870, and military aviation, produce almost $44 billion in annual economic activity. That makes aviation and aerospace the second largest economic engine in our state, just behind oil and gas.”
Col. Darrell F. Judy, commander of 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance, said “It is a privilege as Vance Air Force Base to partner with Garfield County and all of Northwest Oklahoma as we continue to accomplish our mission of developing airmen, delivering world-class pilots and delivering combat-ready warriors.”
Enid Mayor Bill Shewey called Woodring a “huge asset to the city of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma. They also do their job with Vance Air Force Base. It’s a great partnership, it has been ever since 1941.” He then cited already announced plans for a new terminal building at Woodring.
Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison and chairman of Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, who was unable to attend the press conference, said by phone the economic impact of Vance and the state’s other military aviation facilities (totaling $19.3 billion annually), is the reason “We have turned our attention to increasing missions and reducing costs at all of our bases and positioned our bases for growth.”
Other Northwest Oklahoma general aviation airports cited in the study, and their annual economic impact totals, are: Alva Regional ($6.3 million), Cherokee Municipal ($337,079), Fairview Municipal ($2.2 million), Kingfisher ($1.3 million), Medford Municipal ($514,696), Mooreland Municipal ($200, 249), Okeene Christman Airfield ($1.4 million), Watonga Regional ($1.2 million), Waynoka Municipal ($288,920) and West Woodward ($3.6 million).