By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
National leaders in oil and wind energy development, thriving construction, new businesses, population growth—this may sound like the description of a historic Texas boom town such as Houston or Midland/Odessa, but it actually describes Snyder, a town located an hour and a half south of Lubbock.
For the past year, Snyder has enjoyed an unprecedented economic resurgence thanks in part to the upturn in the energy market and the tireless efforts of an economic development team lead by Bill Lavers, the executive director of the Development Corporation of Snyder. Lavers is also a big proponent of Snyder’s Winston Field Airport (KSNK) and recognizes the value of having a top-notch general aviation airport to serve the town.
“The business done at the airport is very important for economic development,” says Lavers. “It’s a great tool for us to have this facility in our community.”
Recently, the economic leaders of the community flew out of the Winston Field Airport to visit a plastics plant in Bowie. The results of the visit yielded a new $15 million plastics plant in Snyder. The plant makes pipe for the oil field, and is the company’s sixth location in North America.
“We were the only city that took the time to go do that,” says Lavers. “The only reason we could is because we had the ability to get across the state and back in the morning because of the airport. We also had another business prospect in and with (local pilot and aviation enthusiast) John Rogotzke’s help, were able to do aerial surveys of potential business locations, which was impressive to them. This business could potentially bring in another $25 million facility to this area.”
All this business development needs hangar space, and Lavers recently visited with Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division on available grant options for future development.
“Bill struck me right away as an individual who understood how the airport could be used as a tool to lure potential business to Snyder and is hard at work to bring additional activity to the airport as well,” says TxDOT Airport Planner Daniel Benson. “Bill’s plan for a new proposed county owned hangar was well organized and resonated with us because it will bring outside visitors and local residents to the airport as a result of the new tenant.”
Rodger Sullenger is the longtime airport manager, a respected veteran in the general aviation community. He assures that daily operations run smooth for their clients, whether they are business leaders or military personnel flying Blackhawk helicopters and stopping in for a bite to eat. Sullenger notes that pilots flying cross-country find his airport a good place to fuel up and stretch their legs.
“When someone lands, we are immediately out there to assist them,” says Sullenger. “Whether it’s to gas up their plane or hand them the keys to our courtesy car so they can head into town to eat, we work hard to make sure they have a good experience at our airport. We have a reputation for quick turnaround service at this airport that makes it convenient for business jets.”
Almost 50 percent of the operations at Winston Field Airport are corporate/business activity and aerial inspections. Other operations fall into several categories, including recreational flying and military exercises. The airport’s function as a fueling stop for the U.S. Army is very important to the community. In fact, the chamber of commerce often provides snacks for crew members during the refueling process.
Some of the business jet traffic in the past few years has included businesses such as Walmart, which is currently building a Super Walmart in Snyder, and representatives from the oil industry. Snyder sits on the third highest producing field (cumulative historical total) in North America and receives a $3 billion tax base because of the mineral deposits. “Snyder is more difficult to get to than Lubbock or Abilene, so it means a lot of driving unless you have a good general aviation facility for them to land their corporate aircraft,” notes Snyder Mayor Terry Martin.
Beyond economics, the airport serves the community in other ways, as Rogotzke explains. “A few years ago when we had the grass fires, the fire bombers were based here. They refueled and performed maintenance here. They used our airport as a base for a much larger area. I have friends who would have lost homes if those fire bombers had not been here.”
The airport also has a maintenance depot for the MedEvac facility at the hospital.
“If not for them, I would not be here today, since I had to take an emergency flight a few years back because of a heart condition. I’m lucky. I barely made it.” continues Rogotzke. “We’re very fortunate to have an icon like this airport. We need to keep it, develop it and continue to improve it.”
The airport hosts a fly-in breakfast and air show every other year on the third weekend of June, and is the future site of the third Texas Air Museum, which is scheduled to open the spring of 2013.
For more information on Winston Field Airport in Snyder, please visit: http://www.developsnyder.com/index.php/site_selection/transportation/airport or http://www.airnav.com/airport/KSNK.
At a Glance
FAA INFORMATION EFFECTIVE 26 JULY 2012
FAA Identifier: SNK
Lat/Long: 32-41-36.2000N / 100-57-01.7000W
32-41.603333N / 100-57.028333W
32.6933889 / -100.9504722 (estimated)
17/35 – 5,599 ft. x 100 ft.
8/26 – 4,200 ft. x 75 ft.
Elevation: 2430 ft. / 740.7 m (surveyed)
Variation: 08E (1990)
Location: 2 miles SW of Snyder, Texas
2010 Economic Impacts
Economic Activity: $ 3,268,394
Salary, Wages, and Benefits: $ 1,286,783