Study: Two airports bring about $11 million a year

Despite its deficit budget, Walgreen Field still a big asset, site officials say

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STERLING – Whiteside County Airport in Rock Falls and Dixon Municipal Airport contribute about $11 million a year to the local economy, according to an Illinois Department of Transportation study.

Dixon’s Charles R. Walgreen Field creates 59 jobs, while Whiteside County’s Joseph H. Bittorf Field creates 57 jobs, including those created by capital improvement projects and visitor spending, the study says.

Each also brings in about $5.5 million in economic activity, the study said.

Whiteside County levies roughly $200,000 a year to pay for airport operations and upkeep, said Joel Horn, Whiteside County administrator. Bonds the county issued to fund the airport have long since been paid off, he said.

The county receives revenue from hangar rental and fuel sales, he said.

“It’s a wonderful thing that we have for the county,” Horn said.

The airport also brings in money from renting to business tenants, farm land leases and special events.

Airport manager Mike Dowell is president of M&M Aviation Services Ltd., which operates the airport under contract.

The airport also receives federal funds for special projects for buildings or creating taxiways or ramps, Dowell said.

Business jets are the majority of the airport’s commercial operations, and transporting cargo for local business makes up about 20 percent of the business, Dowell said.

“Oh, my gosh, it’s a tremendous asset to the county and to the entire area,” Dowell said.

The airport has been responsible for indirectly influencing several companies to locate in the area, including the Walmart Distribution Center, Dowell said.

“It’s a tremendous asset to the business community to have other companies come to visit,” Dowell said.

Businesses sometimes use the airport when visiting Dixon, too, because it’s bigger than Dixon’s.

Paula Meyer is finance director for the city of Dixon.

Dixon has a separate airport fund with $145,000 of expenditures budgeted for the fiscal year that will end April 30, Meyer said. The city is budgeted to collect about $60,000, which will leave a deficit of about $85,000 that will be covered by a transfer from the general fund, she said.

Al Hill, who sits on the airport board, said such a transfer is common.

“Generally, there is a shortfall and the city makes up that difference,” Hill said.

Despite the deficit, the airport still is an asset to the city, he said.

“I think once you understand the whole process of what airports do, yes it does [benefit Dixon],” he said. “It certainly creates business by having an airport.”

About 20 planes are kept there at a monthly rent of about $120 each, Hill said. Some days as many as 30 to 40 planes fly in or out, and many local companies move their key personnel in by airplane, he said.

The IDOT study measured the economic impact of the state’s 116 airports. The Whiteside County and Dixon municipal airports are two of the 105 general aviation airports in the state. The other 11 are commercial airports. The state’s airports have contributed $40.9 billion in economic activity.

The numbers

Below are the number of jobs created and the economic impact of a variety of area airports, according to study released last month by Illinois Department of Transportation.

Jobs created includes those jobs created by capital improvement projects and visitor spending.

Dixon Municipal Charles R. Walgreen Field

Total employment: 59 jobs

Total economic output: $5,492,600

Erie Airpark Ultralight Flightpark

Total employment: 9 jobs

Total economic output: $332,400

Ogle County Airport in Mount Morris

Total employment: 6 jobs

Total economic output: $94,600

Rochelle Municipal Koritz Field

Total employment: 86 jobs

Total economic output: $7,858,700

Whiteside County Joseph H. Bittorf Field in Rock Falls

Total employment: 57 jobs

Total economic output: $5,466,600

Go to to to read the full study.