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Keokuk's airport project could bring new economic activity to the region

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KEOKUK, Iowa (WGEM)-- The city of Keokuk is anxiously getting ready to start work on its airport runway renovation.

City officials recently awarded a $3.8 million contract that's being largely funded by an infrastructure grant from the FAA. 

Officials say its a project that's long overdue, but when its completed it could provide a big boost to the region's economy.

Twenty three years of airplanes coming and going at the Keokuk airport has done quite a number on its main runway.

"What we're doing here is working on some of the concrete out there, mostly filling cracks, re-doing the lighting system, painting the runway," said Keokuk Mayor Tom Marion.

A project that comes with a multi-million dollar price tag.

But city officials say with help from a grant from the federal government, the city will only have to pay about $250,000.

A price officials say is well worth the cost.

"We have a lot of businesses here. A lot of factories and industrial businesses, so people flying in to companies, have their own planes out there," Marion said.

But its the airplanes you don't see out here that makes the project worthwhile.

Managers at First Community Bank in Keokuk have been keeping a close eye on the airport plans and say it could draw a lot of new economic activity to the area.

"Businesses that are thinking about re-locating or putting some businesses in the area, its important to them that they have ease of access," said Jim Hankes, Market President for First Community Bank.

And more businesses means more potential customers.

But recruiting those clients is competitive, and managers say a maintained airport gives the area an edge.

"We have to keep our toolbox full because we don't have all the advantages some of the larger cities do," Hankes said.

And giving potential businesses somewhere to land could be the first step in landing some new clients.

City officials say work could start as early as this June but the project will go in phases and will likely take a couple of years to finish.

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