Congressman Loebsack: airports vital to economic development

With airport expansion a top priority for Ottumwa, Congressman Loebsack agreed the facilities are vital to economic development.

The city of Ottumwa has identified expanding and improving the Ottumwa Industrial Airport as one of its top seven goals.

On Friday, Congressman Dave Loebsack visited with city, county and airport officials to check in to see how the airport is developing. Last year, Ottumwa received a grant to build a 26,000-foot fence around the airport and runway to keep deer and other wildlife out. The congressman was able to see the newly-built fence, as well as tour the runway and hangar facilities.

Loebsack was also in town to discuss how the government can help make expansion possible. Ottumwa City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said that most of the city's on-going projects, such as construction, sewer separation and improvements at the airport, would not be at all possible without federal funds.

The next project is to expand the runway from 5,900 feet to 8,300 feet. The airport would complete that expansion in two phases and is looking to commit to the project by 2019.

Though only a small population of Ottumwa and Wapello County use the airport, the businesses flying in and out are vital local employers. Expansion would only increase the airport's involvement in economic development.

"They're very important," Congressman Loebsack said. "There are businesses who want to access the region, wherever that airport may be, and even if it's just for fun, even if it's recreation, those small plane owners, they contribute to the economy as well, so it's really, really important for me to be able to go out and see actually what's happening at these airports."

Loebsack visited Bloomfield Municipal Airport on Friday as well.

On the election side of things, the congressman learned who his Republican challenger will be in November. Loebsack will be going head-to-head with Dr. Mariennette Miller-Meeks, who is not an unfamiliar face. Loebsack defeated Miller-Meeks in both 2008 and 2010.

KTVO asked Congressman Loebsack the biggest difference in policy between him and Dr. Miller-Meeks.

"I think clearly on the economy, but also on social security and Medicare," he said. "I'm going to continue to fight for that, I'm not going to let anyone raise the retirement age and I'm not going to let anybody voucherize Medicare or privatize social security. So those are very important differences between the two of us and it's about keeping the middle class intact and for older Iowans who rely on social security and Medicare, the kinds of reforms the Republicans talk about that are harmful to those folks and to keeping them in the middle class."

The congressman added that he has always argued and will continue to argue that there is no difference between the Republican party in Washington D.C. and the Tea Party.