Rolla's front door is newly renovated and open for businesses. The Rolla National Airport, located in Vichy, welcomed the community to celebrate a ribbon cutting for their new building on Friday, September 15. 

Rolla’s front door is newly renovated and open for businesses. The Rolla National Airport, located in Vichy, welcomed the community to celebrate a ribbon cutting for their new building on Friday, September 15.

Airport Manager Darrin Bacon thanked everyone for attending and spoke in an interview about what an up-to-date building means for the surrounding community.

“Nowadays, airports are your front door,” he said. “When businesses come in, they don’t drive from California, they fly from California.” Bacon explained how the previous building was a 1940’s military barracks that had been converted.

“We needed something to update the whole airport,” he said. “We wanted something that was a little more professional, a little more appealing.”

Now, when businesses visit Rolla, their first impression is a clean, up to date, terminal building with a conference room, and space set aside for pilots to relax before going up in the air again.

“We have pilots that come in here flying these jets—they get up at four in the morning,” Bacon said. “We needed a nice, quiet place for them to kick back. When they leave here, who knows where they’re going? We give them a place to take a shower, clean up and relax, cater to them a little bit and help them out. It makes a difference.”

The funds for the new building were obtained through savings, according to Bacon. He explained there is a fund set up through MODOT and the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) which directly helps airports.

“When you buy a gallon of fuel, be it Jet-A or 100LL, there’s a tax on that, and that goes back to help fund airports. Every airport gets some and we’ve been stockpiling ours to do this project.”

Bacon said they saved for “about five or six years,” using small pieces of the fund here and there for runway maintenance and small projects, but keeping most of it set aside.

“And now we have a brand new, nice building,” said Bacon.

In the interview Bacon said he hopes people see the value in what the airport brings to the community. While major airlines might not land at the Rolla National Airport, the people it brings in, such as representatives from different businesses around the country, directly contribute to the local economy. Even the pilots come into town and do their part, according to Bacon.

“Almost every pilot that comes in here, gets a courtesy car and then it’s to town, to eat,” he said. “It’s a domino effect.”

Bacon said this economic contribution is made possible by the way business is changing, and the prominence aviation has achieved when it comes to bringing businesses to new communities.

“There are businesses that will come in, drive in and look, but nowadays most of it comes strictly in jets,” said Bacon. He said some commuters, be it business representatives or doctors and lawyers, will fly in three to four times a week.

A pilot himself, Bacon said the aviation industry allows more work to get done in a shorter amount of time, and when doing business on his own, he prefers to fly.

“I can spend all day driving, spend the night and come back, or I can spend probably 12 gallons of fuel, go down and do all my business and be back before lunch,” he said.

Bacon said that since the Rolla National Airport serves as the area’s front door, he would also like to see it become a center of industry. The Rolla Regional Economic Commission is one entity striving to fill the area with new business.

“That’s what we’re here for…we’re out of everybody’s way but we’re right in the middle of where we need to be in Missouri.”