Sioux County Regional Airport Project
Sioux Center, Iowa
Scott Wynja, Sioux Center City Manager
Earl Woudstra, Orange City City Administrator
Twenty-one years ago, local leaders saw that the existing airports in Sioux Center and Orange City, Iowa, could not safely accommodate current or future aeronautical demand. Both cities had seen continuing growth in agriculture, manufacturing, and other industrial sectors, all of which rely on connections to the region, nation, and world.
Air travel is a crucial part of this connectivity, yet the local airports had size constraints that limited their expansion and the size of planes they could accommodate. Consequently, local businesspeople regularly used larger airports in Sioux Falls and Sioux City, both about an hour away, and traveled by car to their local destinations. The local airports’ limitations were creating limitations for local industries.
Sioux Center could have built its own new airport, but leaders there and in Orange City and Sioux County saw that it would be far better to join forces and develop a regional airport. They formed a partnership for its development, construction, and operation, led by a board of directors.
The board proposed a site, completed a feasibility study and airport master plan, and submitted it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They acquired 493 acres of farmland through agreements with multiple property owners. They pursued partnerships with the FAA and Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to assist in funding, and they oversaw the five-year construction. The airport’s 5,500-foot runway can serve business jets that previously could not use the local airports.
After more than a year in full service, the Sioux County Regional Airport serves travelers who used to fly into Sioux City and Sioux Falls. Total airport activity now is greater than the sum of previous traffic to the Sioux Center and Orange City airports. Business jets arrive three times a week instead of once a month, and an additional payoff has been increases in local rental car sales, hotel stays, and restaurant service.
A significant challenge was ensuring that city, county, state, and federal agencies were on the same page during airport planning and implementation. The key to success was communication among parties and buy-in by entities that set aside individual advantages to focus on what was important for the greater good of the region. That focus continues today, fostered by a board that includes leadership from local governments and industries.
The completed project and collaboration of city and county leaders received high accolades across Iowa and beyond. Dennis Muilenburg, then-CEO of Boeing and a Sioux Center High School alum, was a keynote speaker for the airport’s grand opening in November 2018 and praised the cooperation and hard work of local leaders.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds also spoke at the opening, commending local leaders’ vision and collaboration: “In order to grow, we must be able to effectively move people and products to places and customers outside the state, and the regional airport will help us do just that from an important high-output area of Iowa. . . . You’ve accomplished a great project that will be an important asset for the state."