First impressions can potentially make or break a community.

If something or someplace has a negative exterior or is not up-to-date it can affect an outsider’s perspective of it.

For example, let’s look at an airport. It’s appearance and the services it provides may encourage or not encourage visitors and/or potential corporate executives to make a return trip to the area. If passenger numbers decline and/or no updates are made to it, then that could spell trouble for the airport, and in turn the community.

If it gets to a point where an airport has to shut down its services, then it could hinder attempts at economic development for years.

Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport Director Devon Brubaker does not want to stay complacent. He recently said he is looking to continue making improvements to the airport.

The airport hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to show off its new general aviation terminal and hangar in July and is now looking to make upgrades to its commercial terminal.

Brubaker is seeking contributions from various funding sources for the design and engineering of the project.

In March, Congress approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act that provided an additional $1 billion in discretionary grants to be awarded by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to provide infrastructure development to small nonhub airports such as Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport.

The money would help the airport do an extreme makeover to its terminal. Some of the proposed changes include updating the appearance of an undersized security checkpoint and post security gate/hold room for aircrafts, improve building life safety issues like the fire suppression sprinkler system, as well as enhance the terminal’s overall exterior and interior aesthetics.

Brubaker requested $711,000 from the Sweetwater County Commissioners that would go towards creating the preliminary design and engineering plans that would potentially allow the airport to become eligible for federal funding assistance, the Rocket-Miner reported.

“What we’re asking for is a partnership and funding support from the city (of Rock Springs) and the county to help us pay for the design for the Commercial Terminal Modernization Program,” he told the Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners Tuesday. “What the program includes would be the complete renovation and expansion of the commercial terminal to support not just today’s passenger levels but the demands of the next 20 to 30 years.”

The project is projected to cost about $14 million. It is slated to be part of a multiyear funding strategy over fiscal years 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 with 60 percent of the costs funded by the state while 40 percent would be comprised of local funding. Construction would begin some time in 2024 or 2025, the Rocket-Miner reported.

The airport’s recent numbers show a continued rise in the number of passengers.

More people are using the airport, but updated facilities could encourage an even greater number of people to use it. The airport may then be able to make other changes and offer more services to customers, i.e. adding daily flights and/or destinations.

What are some things the airport could do to improve the experience for residents or visitors flying out of RKS?

n Improved food service. Perhaps the airport could hire a local company to operate as a vendor. It could be on a small or medium scale, but at least the food would come from a local business that would provide fresh and/or handmade food to new visitors.

n Add a business conference/meeting room with audio-visual capabilities.

n Improve the seating area. When you’re sitting and waiting for a flight you want to be comfortable.

n Entertainment. Perhaps install a television with cable along with fast, robust Wi-Fi and internet service in the waiting room. Brubaker said that is also a possibility.

n Put up historical displays. Perhaps talk with the Sweetwater County Historical Museum or Rock Springs Historical Museum to see if they would be willing to help put on a display to educate visitors of key local historical events and figures.

n Install showers to allow visitors to freshen up before traveling in the area.

n Increase the amount of advertising. Have a marketing plan to help further push or promote the airport.

Rock Springs Mayor Carl Demshar told Brubaker at more than one City Council meeting that Brubaker is doing more for the airport than he had seen in his lifetime.

Brubaker has made his mark in the community and if his proposed project gets off the ground that could mean the sky is the limit for Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport and Sweetwater County.

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