When gauging the local economy it is common to look at sales tax receipts, home sales, railroad ridership or skier days. But while those are meaningful measurements, such lists too often fail to take into account a continuing bright spot in the regions economy the Durango-La Plata County Airport.
Year after year, the airport has experienced increased traffic, more flights and more connections. That benefits not only Durango, but the entire Four Corners.
By making it easier for visitors to get here and fostering business connections here and elsewhere, the ongoing expansion of operations at the airport boosts the areas economy and improves the quality of life for residents. Consistent, quality air service not only makes life here more enjoyable, it enables commerce that would otherwise not be possible in Southwest Colorado.
Traffic at the airport has doubled since 1986. The process continues with higher traffic reported for every month of the third quarter of this year, and registered an 8 percent increase over the same period of 2011.
That growth matters. More traffic translates into better service. Durango now has four airlines offering daily flights to three connecting hubs. United and Frontier fly to Denver, American to Dallas-Fort Worth and US Airways to Phoenix, largely with jets.
That is an almost unheard of level of service for a community the size of Durango, except, of course, the Durango-La Plata County Airport does not serve just Durango. Located almost dead center amid the populations of Southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico, it is perfectly positioned to be a true regional airport. And, as even a glance at the parking lot will suggest, that is exactly what it has become.
And with that, a virtuous cycle ensues. Increasing traffic has brought more flights and larger aircraft. And with all that, the airport itself will soon be expanding.
Best of all, neither the city of Durango nor La Plata County support the airport with tax money. It gets federal aviation grants for capital projects, but sustains itself on revenue from airlines and concessions.
With airport traffic growing so steadily, it is easy to overlook. It is worth noting, however, if only as a reminder, that more things work well than we often recognize.