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Remodeled airport: An inviting window into Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- To get an idea of how fast words travel among pilots, Craig Schneidermann -- himself a pilot -- said Friday morning: "Pilots like to talk. They like to talk to each other and say how great they are. They might say, 'I was in Worthington, Minnesota. I went in there, and they have a great facility. They have great fuel prices.' They might have been in here today, and by Sunday that news has traveled to Florida."

Schneidermann, employed by Integrity Aviation of Worthington, was part of a large group of locals taking in new surroundings at Worthington Regional Airport on Friday. A morning "mixer" unveiled an impressive indoor remodeling effort headed by Worthington Public Works Director Jim Laffrenzen and carried out by Jackie Johnson of Re-Find Designs.

The airport reception area, remembered Laffrenzen, used to be one large open area. Now there is a conference room, a pilots' lounge, flight planning station, flight training room and remodeled pilots' office.

"There isn't one area within the terminal building that has not been remodeled," Laffrenzen said about the $75,000 job, which even included making restrooms handicapped-accessible.

The reception sitting area -- the starkness which had been a source of embarrassment to some -- is now comfortable and pleasing to the eye. Carpet, chairs, furniture, cabinetry and accessories are coordinated together to elicit a warm and inviting feel. There is a condiment bar, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator and television set, too.

"I am more than happy. I am well pleased," said Laffrenzen, who pointed out that the project was a "community effort" involving the city, the Chamber of Commerce and various other local entities. "It came together even better than I anticipated. It was needed because this is the first impression for any business that's coming to Worthington. It's the gateway to the community."

Laffrenzen said he is already hearing from businessmen who are impressed with the airport's inviting look. That's important because, he said, a surprising number of corporations land planes at the local airport.

"If the traffic comes in, the corporations are going to look at Worthington and they're going to say they keep their facilities up," he said.

Until now, Laffrenzen remarked, "I think everybody just kind of tried to whisk them out of here. Now, that's not going to be the case."

Several local leaders have explained that a modern and eye-catching airport can serve as an important drawing card for a community. Worthington Regional Airport -- with its 5,500-foot runway, competitive fuel prices, an instrument landing system that allows for precision approaches, and even a courtesy car available for visitors -- gives the city an advantage over communities of similar size. The airport has no control tower, meaning planes can land and depart quicker than they otherwise could. And there are no landing fees and no ramp fees, said Schneidermann.

"We're basically a free airport," he said.

Declared Laffrenzen: "We're actually competing with Sioux Falls (S.D.)."

A public open house for the newly-remodeled facility will be June 10.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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