Friedman Memorial Airport is the second most valuable in the state, according to a forthcoming report from the Idaho Transportation Department, bringing in some $305 million to the region.

That’s a 155 percent jump from the its $120 million impact in 2010, the last time the ITD’s Division of Aeronautics published its “Idaho Airport Economic Impact Study.” The final 2020 version hasn’t been released yet, but Friedman Memorial Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy announced the preliminary numbers in a newsletter this fall.

Friedman’s value trails only the Boise Airport, which adds $2.7 billion to the economy.

ITD’s study includes “direct, indirect and induced” value from the airport’s activities, including its operations, capital improvements and visitor spending once they land, Pomeroy said. The last portion is the largest, with visitors pumping $247 million into the area, according to the report.

That figure has risen steadily with the economy, and with passenger numbers. Friedman Memorial’s enplanements are up 74 percent since 2010, Pomeroy said.

The report’s authors declined further comment on the subject.

But their calculations come in as the Blaine County commissioners take up long-term planning for local aviation, including the future of Friedman. On Tuesday, the board began debate on a new portion in the county’s comprehensive plan focusing on air travel. A 2014 amendment to Idaho’s Local Land-Use Planning Act now requires counties to include a stand-alone chapter on aviation in their comprehensive plans.

The discussion, which was continued until 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, will require the commissioners to codify their goals for the valley’s commercial airport—and, address the possibility of its relocation or replacement.

Concrete discussion on that subject is a ways off. The draft discussed this week acknowledges that Friedman may, someday, need to move. For now, the existing airport “will do what it can do to meet demand,” Pomeroy said.

“The airport relocation discussion is not formally back on the table,” he said. “But if we’re looking ahead, the possibility of that is still there. We can’t have a discussion about the comprehensive plan without acknowledging that, at some point in the future, Friedman Memorial Airport may need to move.”

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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