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DMDC: A New Des Moines International Airport Terminal is Vital for Our Region's Continued Growth

DMDC Greater Des Moines Partnership

May 28, 2018

For 39 years, the Greater Des Moines Partnership has gathered civic, business and community leaders from across Greater Des Moines (DSM) and traveled to Washington, D.C. as one large delegation to promote regional and local priorities and economic development projects that are vital to the region. This year, nearly 200 leaders departed on the DMDC trip from Des Moines International Airport filling a chartered plane.

Communicating regional priorities with one voice

During the past three years, The Partnership’s Federal Policy Agenda for DMDC has included an increase in the Federal Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap set by Congress. Each year, a handful of policies are selected as priorities and this year the PFC cap was included.

Over three days in May, leaders from many different communities around DSM “stormed the hill” and included in their various discussions the essentiality of an increase in the PFC cap for completion of a new airport terminal in DSM. The overwhelming support from this group is humbling but vital in the effort to convince Congress to increase the cap.

What is a Passenger Facility Charge? 

A PFC is a user fee charged when purchasing an airline ticket. Only those who purchase an airline ticket pay the fee, which is currently set at $4.50 per flight. The money collected is highly regulated and can only be used on projects that increase capacity or enhance safety and security. The Partnership’s Federal Policy Agenda succinctly and accurately states, “The PFC has not increased since 2000 and provides for the most economical and free-market approach in securing sustainable dollars to address long-term infrastructure needs. At no impact to the federal budget, raising the cap would help restore the PFC’s lost purchasing power and help airports improve safety, security and address the capacity concerns. Specifically, the Des Moines International Airport has experienced a 35 percent increase in passengers since 2009. Since 2012, the Des Moines International Airport has set new passenger traffic records each year. In addition, the region’s population is expected to rise to more than one million people within a generation. With this unprecedented growth, DSM’s current airport terminal is rapidly becoming overcrowded and obsolete while also becoming a liability with respect to the state’s economic development efforts.” 

The critical need for a new terminal and other airport upgrades has been identified. However, there is a $200 million shortfall for the $433 million project, which includes a $247 million terminal. A raise in the PFC cap to $8.50 per flight, which is less than the fee most airlines charge for checked luggage, would go a long way in bridging this gap.

National attention

New Des Moines International Airport terminalThe collective voice of 197 Iowan constituents in D.C. did not go unnoticed. Hearing the chatter around D.C. concerning the PFC cap generated an interest from national media. The Partnership’s CEO, Jay Byers, and I interviewed with USA Today and Nexstar. The latter’s story aired in 26 local networks around the country. Jay did an excellent job of explaining the economic impact of air travel and more specifically the economic impact of Des Moines International Airport on the region and state allowing me to focus on the funding necessity of the increased PFC.

DMDC is a must

The networking opportunities afforded by participants during The Partnership’s D.C. trip are invaluable. Some individuals on this trip have participated for decades, while this was only my fourth trip with this group. This year, as in the past, I arrived home exhausted, ready for a good night’s sleep but feeling as though I was part of a community. It’s a community that extends into the working offices of our elected officials and federal staff from most of the alphabet groups.

This DSM community of leaders is recognized, respected and appreciated. I am proud to be affiliated with this group and encourage anyone who has the time and energy to participate in future trips. I also want to express the Airport Authority’s appreciation for the past, present and future support of everyone who has supported an increase in the PFC cap. Your support will help ensure our new airport project benefits passengers across Iowa and beyond without delay.

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.

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