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3 Reasons to Vote Yes to Support the DSM Airport Terminal Project

Vote Airport Terminal Project

October 31, 2023

I am voting yes on Public Measure Letter A on Tuesday, Nov 7. As a former board member of the Des Moines Airport Authority, I saw firsthand the need for an upgraded airport facility in our community as our population has grown and our current facility is no longer adequate to support our trajectory of economic growth and development. Our local municipalities and counties also overwhelmingly support and understand the need for the new terminal, with 20 jurisdictions, along with Prairie Meadows, having voted to financially support this project. During my 12-year tenure on the board, I supported the Airport Authority board and staff to make strategic and tough decisions to fund this project to ensure we could build a new terminal. They have saved airport revenues and applied for all applicable state and federal funding. The final funding will come from public support.

The Situation

The Polk County Board of Supervisors wisely voted unanimously to issue a referendum on the Nov. 7 general election ballot to support funding the Des Moines International Airport's new terminal through a loan. If passed by the voters, the referendum would allow Polk County to sell up to $350 million of bonds and enable Polk County to loan the proceeds to the Des Moines Airport Authority to fund the terminal's construction.

Why doesn't the Airport just bond on its own? Well, they could; however, Polk County has a AAA bond rating, which means if they bond on behalf of the Airport at the lower interest rate, there is an estimated savings of $70 million that could be achieved over the life of the loan which is my first reason to vote Yes on Public Measure Letter A.

Yes Reason 1: Cost Savings.

Supporting the bond referendum will lead to substantial cost savings for the Airport, enabling them to build it at the lowest cost and pay back the loan debt faster without costing the Polk County residents anything. Revenue from airport operations (think parking revenue, airline landing fees, tenant rent, etc.) will repay all principal and interest on the bonds.

It's unlikely the everyday traveler thinks about the Airport's impact on our community's economic development. Yet, they might value booking trips with the most convenient and affordable itineraries.

Yes Reason 2: Benefits to the Traveler

The new terminal will provide opportunities for expanded flight options, flying travelers to unique and exciting locations for both business and leisure. Enabling the Airport to keep the overall costs down will aid in keeping the Des Moines International Airport competitive in seeking new air service and new airlines to serve the market. New airlines entering the market and new service to popular destinations would increase competition and help control airfares. The recent growth in service and demand at DSM has already positioned our Airport to be more competitive, and it shows in the airfares, which are now lower than or equivalent to the average airfare out of Minneapolis (MSP), Omaha (OMA), and Kansas City (MCI) according to US DOT data. The new terminal will increase aircraft capacity by 50%, meaning more availability for air service from those gates to take us to the places we want to go and for more affordably.

Yes Reason 3: No property tax increase.

This measure is not funded by tax dollars. It is a loan from Polk County to the Airport Authority. The terms include that the Airport Authority pays all principal and interest, not the taxpayers. No public commercial service airport like DSM has ever defaulted on bond payments, and I am confident that we will not be the first.

This month, the Airport Authority broke ground on the new terminal; next month, as voters, we can support this initiative by voting yes and helping to build the terminal at the lowest cost possible because this project will shape the future of travel and the future quality of life in our region.

I encourage you to vote Yes on Public Measure Letter A.

Learn more about Public Measure Letter A and the language on the ballot here.

The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Throughout Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) 10-county region, a thriving economic environment is attracting more Investors to do business. Learn more about other recent development projects in the region.

Kerty Levy

Kerty Levy is the Managing Director of the Techstars Boston Accelerator, part of the Techstars worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. She has previously worked as Managing Director of the Iowa Agritech Accelerator and with Techstars in the Midwest, among other roles across the country.