Here’s hoping the airport takes off under new director

While an argument could be made about higher fares, there’s no disputing the convenience of the Grand Junction Regional Airport.

Within the Grand Valley, commercial air service is as close as a short drive and equally quick trip through TSA screening. Elsewhere in Western Colorado, the Grand Junction airport still offers a preferable option. Depending on the ultimate destination, the alternative is a lengthy slog to Denver or Salt Lake City, urban traffic and all the hassles that come with big airports.

Although some people understandably associate the Grand Junction Regional Airport with vacationing or visiting family and friends, there are also those who travel for business. That’s not to mention the important benefits of civilian aviation and all the freight that comes through the airport.

In addition, the airport plays an important role in economic development, whether that’s bolstering the tourism sector or serving businesses that rely on the airport for making connections. A consultant hired to conduct a competitive location assessment of Mesa County suggested that economic development efforts focus on areas within one commercial airline flight from Grand Junction. The more areas, then, the better.

Clearly, it would be difficult to understate the importance of the Grand Junction Regional Airport for all those reasons and more. And that makes the leadership of the facility all the more important.

Although she’s only been on the job a couple of months, it’s evident Angela Padalecki brings a unique combination of talents as well as considerable enthusiasm to her role as the new executive director at the airport.

Padalecki worked in two positions at Denver International Airport — as director of airline affairs and as a senior advisor to the chief financial officer.
She led a team that served as a liaison of sorts to the 35 airlines that regularly use DIA. She also helped implement a strategic plan and develop performance metrics for the airport.

In addition, though, Padalecki holds degrees in economics and has worked for the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas. That gives her an understanding of the supply and demand forces that drive airlines and the travel industry — along with what she describes as a big picture perspective.

It takes only a few minutes of conversation with Padalecki to recognize she’s excited about her new job, excited about the staff and board with which she works and especially excited about the possibilities for the airport.

There’s a risk of taking the Grand Junction Regional Airport and direct service to so many locations for granted. Although they live in a rural area, Western Colorado residents have been fortunate to enjoy that level of service for a long time.

Padalecki says she wants to build on what’s been a thankfully stable foundation in improving infrastructure — plans are under way to replace the runway —  and adding more commercial flights and other services. The ample space around the airport also affords an opportunity for additional development.

Here’s hoping Padalecki enjoys a long and successful tenure as executive director of the Grand Junction Regional Airport and the operations there thrive under her leadership and the continued hard work of the staff.

If airport operations take off the way Padalecki hopes, the residents — and economy — of Western Colorado will benefit.