Project Runway: We Help Land the Funding

Diane Hofer, Transportation

July 15, 2019

One of my favorite aviation sayings is, “Build a mile of highway and you can go a mile. Build a mile of runway and you can go anywhere.”

The aviation team at Olsson has joined with many community partners to design and fund airport projects. But the “you can go anywhere” saying is especially important to some of our smaller-population clients. A safe, well-maintained airport provides a critical transportation link to the world, especially in cities far from an interstate highway.

Airports also serve as an important tool for business while providing a way for urban health care specialists to hold clinic days in rural areas. Of course, same-day or even one-day delivery wouldn’t be possible if online retailers had to rely exclusively on trucking fleets.

For communities with populations under 10,000, however, a seven-figure cost estimate can put a worthy project out of reach. Fortunately, federal and state airport grants make first-class aviation upgrades much more affordable for smaller communities.

That’s why Olsson specializes in helping clients obtain grants that cover most of a project’s expense. We have a successful track record when it comes to helping applicants qualify for government programs that require a local match of just 10 percent.

Even more impressively, our team recently helped four community partners obtain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants that paid 100 percent of the cost of their projects. Here are some details:

  • Two of our community partners are in Missouri (Trenton and Tarkio) and two are in Nebraska (Red Cloud and Thomas County).
  • With a population of about 5,800, Trenton is the largest of the communities. Thomas County, with a Census-estimated 720 residents, is the smallest.
  • The projects ranged from $1.2 million to $9 million. The grants covered the entire cost of each project.
  • The projects included improvements to runways, taxiways, aprons, and runway safety areas.

Congress authorized the 100 percent grants last year in supplemental funding legislation. Lawmakers targeted the money for airports in communities with fewer than 10,000 people outside a metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area.

The funding ignited intense competition for grants, as nearly $11 billion in applications were submitted for a pool of about $1 billion. Trenton made the cut last year in the first grant cycle. After the final round was announced in May, the three additional clients appeared on a list of 127 airports selected for funding. The achievement was very exciting for our team.

While it’s unclear if zero-match funding will be renewed under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, funding with a 10 percent local match remains available. Competition for those dollars is always fierce.

Many communities don’t realize the amount of time it takes to strongly position a project for grant funding. Federal regulations require applicants to have an updated airport layout plan, environmental documentation, and possibly noise studies, which can take more than a year to complete. Land acquisition can also add significantly to a project’s timeline.

Our team members bring years of experience to both airport design and the strategic planning necessary to win funding. Just don’t wait until the last minute, or your project could get stuck waiting for takeoff.

To learn more about our services, reach Diane at 402.458.5681 or