By Ed Runyan
For an airport that received few commercial airplanes a decade ago and very little parking revenue before 2010, July figures for parking revenue at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport are worth considering.
Airport officials said at a recent meeting of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport, that parking revenue for July was $36,133 — “our best month ever,” according to Kevin Kern, an accounting consultant for the airport.
By comparison, the airport had parking revenue of $9,389 in July 2010.
The airport took in $197,363 in 2012, $165,445 in 2011, $82,382 in 2010 and $28,415 in 2009. Parking revenue will top $200,000 this year.
The revenue jump from 2009 to 2012 represents a nearly 600 percent increase.
Before 2010, the airport was paying USA Parking to run the airport’s lot, but it was staffed only at times when commercial flights were arriving and departing, and the gates were open the rest of the time.
As a result, some people parked there without paying by leaving at times when no attendant was on duty.
Another problem with the parking arrangement in 2009 was airport officials didn’t have control over it.
At one point in 2009, port authority board members concluded that parking fees paid to the airport were below expectations, but there was no way to determine what the correct total should have been.
USA Parking, which was running the parking lot at the time, agreed in 2009 to pay the airport $9,000 to correct the problem, but neither USA Parking nor the airport could say for sure what amount the airport should have received, said Dan Dickten, airport director of aviation.
When Dickten was hired at the airport in April 2010, he persuaded the port board to add fencing and gates and an automated system to collect parking fees 24 hours a day.
In doing so, the airport started running the parking lots itself and keeping a larger amount of the revenue as profit.
The cost to park at the regional airport is below many of its competitors.
Parking here is free for the first two hours, 50 cents per 15 minutes after that, $6 for the day, $30 for the week.
It costs $1 per half hour up to 21/2 hours at the Akron-Canton Airport, $6 to $15 for the day and $36 to $60 for the week, depending on the lot.
Parking at Cleveland- Hopkins International Airport costs $8 to $14 per day, $56 to $82 per week, depending on the lot.
Parking revenue has increased at the Vienna airport also because the number of passengers has risen dramatically since 2009.
In 2009, passenger count was 34,890; it rose to 52,526 in 2010, 70,223 in 2011, 77,327 in 2012 and is expected to exceed 90,000 this year.
That’s mostly because leisure airline Allegiant, which arrived in 2006, continues to offer more flights and more destinations.
Andres Visnapuu of Boardman, who joined the port board in January 2010, credits Dickten for the increase in parking revenue and many other developments at the airport in recent years.
“It was a disaster,” Visnapuu said of parking revenue when Dickten arrived. “In 2009, we took in less than $30,000 in a year. This year in a month, we took in $36,000. That tells you. It’s heart warming.”
He added that the “passenger experience” of using the local airport also has improved “in every aspect” because of new restrooms, improved parking, nicer terminal appearance and better baggage handling.
Those improvements and others came courtesy of a $3.7 million bond project that Dickten and the port board carried out.
The board has approved spending about $270,000 to begin construction of more parking to the east of the present 350-vehicle lot because the number of cars seeking spaces has exceeded the number of parking spaces.
“We have a great problem,” port member Richard Musick said. “When you have to have more parking, that means people are using your airport.”