"Roundtable Remarks"
Michael Huerta, Williston, North Dakota
April 21, 2014

Sloulin Field International Airport

Thank you, Senator Heitkamp, for that kind introduction.

It’s great to be in western North Dakota. There’s a lot of growth happening in the oil patch here, and we’re seeing the impact on the area’s airports. They’re humming with activity.  

Building and maintaining America’s runways, taxiways and terminals helps foster the growth of our economy. Civil aviation in America is responsible for $1.3 trillion in economic activity and more than 10 million jobs.  I think that story is clearly illustrated here in Williston. Better air service helps open up areas like this to more growth, more jobs and more prosperity.

You’ve had tremendous growth here at Sloulin Field. Five years ago, about 11,000 people boarded planes here. Last year that number was up to more than 94,000. Both United and Delta have four daily flights now.

I enjoyed the tour of the airfield and terminal this morning. The tremendous growth at Williston is clearly presenting challenges here. We are working in close partnership with you and the state to determine the best airport development plan that will address Williston's airport capacity issues.

We know this region is growing. In the last decade the FAA has granted $73 million to airports in North Dakota’s oil-producing region. We have supported the terminal and taxiway that’s under construction in Minot. More than 220,000 people flew to Minot last year – up from 66,000 per year five years ago. It’s getting busy.  

In Dickinson, United and Delta began regional jet service last summer, and the airport is growing. We’re working with that airport as it progresses on its master plan, to see what improvements we need, including work on the runway safety areas.

There’s a lot that needs to be done here and I’m encouraged by the activity in Williston and around the oil patch. The entire state of North Dakota has a proud aviation heritage. That dedication to aviation continues with the test site for unmanned aircraft that we visited this morning in Grand Forks.  The research there will help form the policies we’ll use to integrate unmanned systems all over the country.  

North Dakota has taken a leadership role in aviation. Your airports are booming and we’re delighted to partner with local and state leaders to work on the best solutions to upgrade the facilities and continue to foster economic growth.

Thank you very much for your time.