Covering the Land of Lincoln

US Rep. Darin Lahood supports cargo expansion at Rockford airport

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, pledged his support for the continued expansion of cargo operations at the Chicago Rockford International Airport following a tour of the facility on Friday.

The four-term Congressman succeeded US Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the newly drawn 16th Congressional District which stretches from the Wisconsin border south to Bloomington and covers sections of Winnebago County including RFD.

“About 8,000 employees are tied to the airport here,” LaHood said. “Many of those are my constituents. We’re going to be making other stops in Rockford today to introduce myself to the community because I have not represented the area before. I think it was a good first stop being here today in that this is obviously one of the largest employers in the community here.

RFD is the 14th largest airport in the US for air cargo. It’s also home to the second-largest UPS hub in North America. It’s a major base of operations for Amazon Air and serves more than 15 international airlines and freight forwarders.

AAR’s Maintenance and Repair Operation employs about 400 people and has a contract to service United Airlines’ 737 planes.

Success breeds the need for additional federal dollars, LaHood said.

“When you look at the past infrastructure here for the ramps that were built and you look at the build out, that all costs money,” LaHood said. “So clearly there will be a need for further funding as they continue to expand here and continue to attract more cargo here. If you look at pre-COVID and the levels of cargo across the country, eventually that’s going to come back when we reduce inflation and supply chain issues.”

More:Airport director: Cargo, passenger service and jobs on rise in Rockford

While RFD has experienced significant growth in its cargo operations, some aspects of the airport are outdated.

RFD Executive Director Mike Dunn said the airport’s control tower dates back to the 1950s and is one of the two oldest towers in the country.

LaHood said he’s familiar with antiquated control towers.

“Being in Congress over the last seven years, I’ve done everything I can to be involved with bringing back infrastructure and good projects to our district,” LaHood said. “Congresswoman (Cheri) Bustos and I were able to get funding for a new tower in Peoria. We did the groundbreaking on that last fall and so working with Mike (Dunn) here and working with his board to do everything we can on that new tower will be a big part of my new position.”

Ken DeCoster covers business news and features. Contact him at 815-987-1391, [email protected] or @DeCosterKen.

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