By Ben Lane, TSB Staff
Collin County Regional Airport was the main agenda topic when a McKinney delegation traveled last week to our nation’s capital.
Mayor Brian Loughmiller, City Manager Jason Gray, McKinney Economic Development President and CEO Jim Wehmeier, and CCRA Executive Director Ken Wiegand traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with representatives from the FAA, US Senators John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Congressman Ralph Hall, and others.
Loughmiller told TownSquareBuzz.com that the trip was a “whirlwind” that consisted of many meetings with various FAA officials to discuss the contract tower program at CCRA and other airport-related issues. Gray told TSB that he viewed the trip as successful. “Federal officials recognize the impact of the airport on our area,” Gray said. “It’s important for us to go and tell our story.”
Due to the budget sequestration talks earlier this year, there was a chance that the FAA would have pulled the funding that supports the air traffic control tower at CCRA, which is located in McKinney. The tower there is part of the contract tower program, which utilizes a private company to supply air traffic controllers for smaller airports.
After the McKinney City Council voted to fund the tower from city funds, a budget agreement was reached in Washington and the FAA was able to continue funding the program.
Both Loughmiller and Gray said that a big part of a trip like this is to “maintain relationships” with federal officials and have “face to face contact.” Loughmiller said that the McKinney group met with various departments within the FAA, “including the contract tower group, the compliance group, and a group that oversees special projects.”
Gray said much of their time with FAA was spent discussing the funding of the contract tower program. “So much of what we’re talking about is locked up in the federal appropriations process, which is frustrating for everyone,” he said. “We don’t really know what fiscal ’14 is going to look like for the (federal) budget. We would have loved to have them say there’s a budget deal that’s not published yet and here’s what you’ll have to work with, but they’re not at that point yet.”
The McKinney group also met with US Senators Cornyn and Cruz. “We got the chance to meet with our Senators and share what’s happening in McKinney,” Loughmiller said. “The Senators obviously represent a large area. We’re growing so fast and I think we need to keep them updated on our growth and any issues we may be facing.”
Loughmiller said he also relished the chance to meet with Senator Cruz. “We hadn’t had a chance to sit down with Cruz and talk about what his goals are and how they match up with our goals,” Loughmiller said. “He’s focused on economic development and the vitality of Texas. And he wants to have policies that support that. I felt very good about the conversation we had with him.”
Speaking of Senators Cornyn and Cruz, Loughmiller said, “Those guys receive hundreds if not thousands of letters each day. If you go up there and get 45 minutes with them face to face, it makes a difference.” Loughmiller said they updated the Senators on McKinney’s continued growth the city’s plans for the future.
Gray added, “I think the elected officials appreciate us checking in and seeing some Texans up in Washington.”