Baraboo-Dells Municipal Airport (copy)

The Baraboo-Dells Regional Airport's economic impact has been estimated at nearly $15 million.

News Republic file photo

The Baraboo-Wisconsin Dells Regional Airport produced nearly $15 million in economic output last year, according to a state study.

Airport overseers said the facility’s economic impact should grow after the main runway is widened next year. A committee overseeing the airport not only discussed the facility’s economic impact Wednesday, but signed off on its 2017 budget and a new agreement governing how the airport will be run.

The state Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Aeronautics calculated the airport’s 2016 economic output at $14.7 million.

That output includes sales, employment and personal income directly attributable to the airport.

The facility supported the equivalent of 104 jobs paying nearly $4.5 million in wages.

“It’s pretty impressive to think what our little airport does for the region,” said airport manager Cheryl Giese, who also serves as the city of Baraboo’s finance director.

The airport is owned by the city of Baraboo and village of Lake Delton. Classified as a mid-size airport, it saw nearly 30,000 takeoffs and landings last year. It’s home to 44 aircraft.

Visitor spending due to the airport was calculated at $4.4 million, supporting 54 jobs with a payroll of $1.5 million.

Suppliers to the airport and businesses hosting air travelers — hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues — benefited as well. This activity generated $4 million in economic output, supporting 31 jobs that paid more than $1.1 million in wages.

While the airport had economic impact statewide, most of its output was funneled into Sauk County’s economy — $13.3 million in sales, 98 jobs supported and $3.6 million in local wages last year.

The committee said it would like to see the airport’s economic impact analyzed again after the runway is widened, accommodating larger jets.

Intergovernmental agreement

The committee of two — Baraboo Mayor Mike Palm and Lake Delton Trustee Jeff Morris — voted unanimously in support of a new agreement detailing how the airport will be run in the future. This recommendation will go to the Baraboo Common Council and Lake Delton Village Board for approval.

A new deal was needed after the city of Wisconsin Dells and town of Delton pulled out last year, relinquishing their ownership shares. As it shifts to a commission structure, the body will continue to have only two voting members. Any measure generating a split vote will fail.


Also approved unanimously was the airport’s budget, which calls for both owners to spend about $228,000 on airport expenses in 2017. Morris noted the Lake Delton board signed off on the airport budget last month. It still requires approval by the Baraboo council.

This amount includes a $2.9 million runway widening project, requiring contributions of nearly $200,000 each from the city and village.

“Everything else is kind of business as usual,” Giese said.

Giese put together a plan for capital projects for the next six years. These include relocating fuel facilities (2021), rebuilding a taxiway (2022) and designing and building a new terminal building (2023-2024). The committee voted 2-0 to recommend approval of the capital plan to the Common Council and Village Board.

Airport manager

With Giese set to retire, the airport’s owners are devising a succession plan. For the short term, they plan to name City Administrator Ed Geick the airport’s interim manager.

Candidates for the job over the long term include Geick, who has airport administration experience; Bill Murphy, the airport’s fixed-base operator; and Giese, if she were interested in the job after retirement.

The committee agreed to wait until after its new intergovernmental agreement is in place before hiring a new manager.

Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley