When the City of Phoenix announced this summer it plans to wrap up its partnership with the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority (PMGAA) by June 30, 2024, which includes stepping away from contributing funding and other resources to the Southeast Valley airport's operations, it could prove beneficial for Queen Creek, according to Queen Creek Vice Mayor Jeff Brown.
"Phoenix’s departure to allow their city to focus more on Sky Harbor is going to prove beneficial for Queen Creek as it will result in a greater ownership percentage for QC (it's too early to know what the exact ownership percentage changes may be in a year)," Brown said. "I’m bullish on Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and frequently share with residents that our airport isn’t just arrivals and departures, but instead represents a truly significant economic development engine. The economic activity generated by PMGAA today is approaching $2 billion annually and will grow to $3 billion per year within a five-year time window. In addition, the airport and the various businesses located on the airport property employ hundreds of our QC residents, and that number too will continue to grow."
Brown added that the Town of Queen Creek "has been actively courting a number of larger, living wage employers. Our discussions with those employers have shown that whether for moving people or supplies and end products, they collectively have a need for a robust transportation network nearby. The airport is one piece of that network and our ownership and board seat on PMGAA, along with our proximity to the airport, has proven beneficial in dialogs with employers."
PMGAA, which owns and operates Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, includes not only Phoenix and Mesa but also Queen Creek, Gilbert, Apache Junction and the Gila River Indian Community.
Phoenix Councilman Jim Waring, who serves as current vice chair of the PMGAA, said that after over 17 years, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is succeeding in its growth and no longer needs Phoenix's support. He noted that now is the time for Phoenix to pull out of the PMGAA and focus on its "need to continue making financial investments in its own system of airports."
The City of Phoenix leaving PMGAA has no impact on Queen Creek or the other remaining member communities, according to J. Brian O’Neill, A.A.E., executive director and CEO of the PMGAA.
“The City of Phoenix, along with the other five PMGAA member communities – Mesa, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Gila River Indian Community and Apache Junction – contribute a total of $4,060,000 each year to (PMGAA) that is used as a portion of the 10% local match that PMGAA provides to receive 90% federal grant funding for important capital projects," explained O'Neill. "These contributions are not used for ongoing operating expenses for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. PMGAA’s Fiscal Year 2024 Combined Operating and Capital Budget is more than $128 million.
"The City of Phoenix’s departure next year, and the loss of their $1.3 million annual contribution, will have no impact on future growth plans or the financial stability of the airport," O'Neill continued. "PMGAA appreciates the 17-plus years that the City of Phoenix has been a member of (PMGAA). The aviation experience, resources and leadership provided during their tenure has helped create the financially strong and successful organization that PMGAA is today. PMGAA wishes the City of Phoenix the very best of luck.”
According to O'Neill, Phoenix's departure will not affect the name of the airport.
"The name 'Phoenix' is a well-known geographic locator that helps educate air travelers from across the country about Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport’s strategic location serving the greater Phoenix region," he said. "The name Phoenix was actually added more than a year after the City of Phoenix joined the (PMGAA) at the strong urging of Allegiant Air, who was beginning scheduled service to Mesa. There are no plans at this time to change our name. Locally, many people call it Gateway Airport. Nationally, there are several airports with 'Gateway' in their official name. We need both Mesa and Phoenix in our name to help minimize confusion and maximize awareness of our airport."
Each year, the PMGAA elects officers from the six member communities it represents and Apache Junction Mayor Chip Wilson was just elected chairman of the PMGAA for Fiscal Year 2024. Gila River Indian Community Lt. Gov. Monica Antone will serve as vice-chair, Queen Creek Mayor Julia Wheatley was elected secretary and Mesa Mayor John Giles will serve as treasurer.
“Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (Gateway Airport) is a $1.8 billion per year economic engine for the greater Phoenix region and the State of Arizona,” Wilson said. “It’s an honor to serve as chairman of the PMGAA Board of Directors this year as we work together to improve commercial air service and attract additional private development projects to Gateway Airport.”
O’Neill added that “Wilson and the other members of the PMGAA Board of Directors provide exceptional leadership, broad experience and a unified vision that guides the continued development and improvement of Gateway Airport. PMGAA staff looks forward to working with Chairman Wilson and the PMGAA Board on exciting projects including Gulfstream, Virgin Galactic and XNRGY Climate Systems.”
The burgeoning Southeast Valley airport will remain a catalyst of the area's growing business and housing development.
"As a co-owner of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority (PMGAA), the Town of Queen Creek appreciates the City of Phoenix’s support and partnership over the years," said Queen Creek Mayor Wheatley. "With a dedicated airport of their own, we understand their decision to withdraw from the PMGAA in 2024. With record-breaking numbers, PMGAA will continue to be a successful reliever airport for the region."
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is located in southeast Mesa at 5835 S. Sossaman Road, near Queen Creek, on the old Williams Air Force Base. For more information, visit gatewayairport.com.