COSHOCTON -- The runway extension at Coshocton County's Richard Downing Airport is getting closer to reality. Grants were received in December toward the $900,000 project that will extend the runway to 5,000 feet . The Coshocton Foundation and the Montgomery Foundation each pledged $100,000 toward the project.

Of the $900,000 price tag for the extension, the FAA will fund half the cost, so approximately $450,000 was the amount the Airport was looking to raise. Money from the past three Air Shows will be used toward this goal. Matching funds were also needed to be eligible for an OMEGA grant that was applied for by the Coshocton County Commissioners and Port Authority Director, T.J. Justice.

Justice said when they are discussing Coshocton's pluses with a potential business, the question usually comes up about the quality of the airport and the length of the runway.

"The runway extension at the airport would give us another tool in the toolbox when we are working at bringing business to the area," said Justice. "It's not just a matter of convenience. It's a matter of doing business. It gives businesses a reason to stay in Coshocton or to locate in the area."

Dan Truett of Smurfit-Stone Container agrees. Smurfit-Stone's corporate plane is not able to land at the Coshocton Airport until the runway is extended. They currently have to land at the Zanesville or Columbus airports.

"A larger airport would help our existing businesses by ensuring the viability of our facilities and making them more accessible," he said. "We already have a first-class airport terminal building that is very suitable for corporate travelers. It shows that a community has their priorities in order if they have an airport that is corporate-friendly."

Prior to coming to Coshocton, Justice worked with the Governor's Office of Appalachia and traveled throughout the area. He said the Coshocton Airport is by far the nicest airport he's been to in the 29 Ohio Appalachian counties.

"The airport shows well when business people visit it," said Justice. "It's also unique that we already have some businesses located near the airport and the potential is there to include new airport-related businesses."

Justice feels Coshocton County is uniquely repositioning itself during a recession.

"For the Airport and their board to take this proactive step puts Coshocton in a much better position for when things begin to turn around economically," stated Justice. "We will be prepared when other communities may not be."

Former State Senator, Joy Padgett agrees.

"Opportunity and chance favor a prepared community," said Padgett. "We have to prepare in multiple ways at the same time. While we are working on the highway, it is also important to have a corporate airport available for companies in the area. Coshocton was developed around transportation -- the rivers, canals and later the railroad. An extended runway would bring a different and additional transportation source to the mix and truly highlight this area."

Padgett feels that having the runway extended to 5000 feet would be an important reason for keeping Coshocton in the mix of potential sites for companies looking to locate here.

"Site selectors are always looking for reasons to eliminate a site for further consideration," she said. "Airport facilities are one of the factors they usually consider."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) procedures for determining runway length requirements indicate that a 4,400-foot runway is sufficient for small business aircraft. The existing runway at the Coshocton Airport is 4,099 feet long. The FAA will therefore assist in funding a runway extension at the Richard Downing Airport to 4,400 feet .

Insurance companies for corporate aircraft require a 5,000-foot runway. Therefore, the Coshocton County Regional Airport Authority (CCRAA) along with the Coshocton County Commissioners have determined that the runway extension needs to be 5,000 feet and have made this a key priority to position Coshocton County at the forefront of the competition for business and economic development.

Construction on the runway extension is planned for 2010. Any donations made to the Runway Extension Project are tax deductible since the Richard Downing Airport is a government-owned entity. Donations can be made to the Richard Downing Airport Runway Extension Project, 24569 Airport Rd., Coshocton.

For information, contact Airport Administrator, Bethel Toler, at (740) 622-2252 or betheltoler@coshoctoncounty.net. The Airport's Web site is www.coshoctonairport.com.