Broadcast on Vermont Public Radio
Dan Gauvin radios from his four-seat Cessna and aims for the sky. Gauvin lifts off almost every day. He had been running the Newport State Airport for almost decade when, in 2012, developers from Jay Peak ski resort took over management of the facility.
Jay Peak’s parent company, Q Resorts, kept Gauvin on to run airport operations. He’s seen a lot of changes since then. From 1,000 feet above ground, he points out some big ones: A thousand feet of fresh black-top caps the base of the airport’s north-south runway. Between it and a tiny white terminal building, construction vehicles criss-cross a new area for planes to park. Beyond that lies a massive new stormwater retention pond.
“The base of that’s the size of a football field, believe it or not. It’s 27 feet deep,” Gauvin says.
These and other infrastructure improvements were mostly paid for by federal grant money — a lot of it.
“$2.1 million is our usual program funding from the feds every year, and we brought in excess of $60 million in two years,” according to Guy Rouelle, who heads up Vermont’s Aviation Program.
Almost half that has gone to the Newport airport, for upgrades designed in conjunction Q Resorts’ plan to put the airport on the map: They’d build a new and improved terminal with customs service for international cargo and passengers, bonded warehouses for use by import-export businesses, an assembly plant for small aircraft and more hangars for private plane owners.
This year, the Legislature even renamed the airport the Northeast Kingdom International Airport.
To date, though, it’s mostly the publicly-funded projects that have come through. Q Resorts, which also has projects in limbo in nearby Newport and East Burke, hasn’t yet delivered its end of the bargain.