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For many decades the Hollister Airport has been referred to as the jewel of the county and a potential economic engine for the city, but there appears to be very limited aviation-related economic impact in spite of large investments in time, money, and effort. We do not have current data to evaluate, but most of all the airport lacks a coherent plan and schedule that can be used to measure progress and make the necessary changes that will produce the desired results.

Almost 10 years ago, a Del Webb project was proposed in the City of Hollister similar to the one just approved by the county. There were several problems with that proposal including a bad location, adjacent to the Hollister Airport. I opposed it and it was rejected by the voters. 

I feared that no matter the amount of notifications, the homes (and their voters) would eventually squeeze out or severely restrict use of the airport. Now, with almost another decade gone by, I’m wondering if I just accepted the empty promises constantly put forward for the airport’s economic potential.

An airport-related business is one that depends on the airport to operate. A business at, or adjacent to, the airport that does not need the runways, aircraft, or ancillary items to operate is not airport-related. The impacts of the current airport-related businesses are unknown.

I know many people who use the airport, mostly supporters and hobbyists, but hobbyists cannot generate serious economic punch. In fact, they are caught in a Catch-22, if the airport is too successful the rents will go sky high and some of them will not be able to afford their hobby. On the other hand, if the airport folds up and goes away their hobby goes with it. So they tend to believe economic plans, but always for the future; if the plans don’t work out, well, low rents are not the worst thing that could happen if you have an expensive avocation.

No doubt there is some present and future public good at the airport ranging from the CalFire Hollister Air Attack Base to the potential for regional natural disaster emergency relief, but there goes that “potential” word again. Unrealized potential is a waste.

The best place to start fixing the problem would be to do a survey and determine the actual public and private impacts and costs of the airport-related operations.Then we need to build a realistic plan for the future based on hard-nosed evaluations of our position and the competition – and there is plenty of that. We must stop swooning over unrealistic projections and pie-in-the-sky proposals and push for real airport-related businesses or come to grips with the fact that it’s not going to happen and act accordingly.

Every proposal has an element of hype, but the best results are obtained when the goals have a realistic chance of being accomplished and progress is measured against those goals. You start from where you are, so where are we after all these years?