Port of Ephrata

Managing Editor | October 18, 2023 7:17 PM

EPHRATA — David Lanman, the new executive director at the Port of Ephrata said he’s hoping to take the port to new heights — literally in some respects. The port’s airstrip has traditionally served local groups, but he said he’s set a goal of making it a money-maker that helps Ephrata thrive.

“It’s the industrial park that’s supporting the airport right now. The port is flush and is in the black, but it’s all heavily dependent on the industrial side,” Lanman said.

That situation isn’t static and Lanman said his intention is to work with his board of directors and other community leaders to take advantage of the port’s location to make the port a profitable venture that draws businesses to the city, improving the town’s economy. With decades of experience improving airports, Lanman said he intends to build the port up in ways that will provide a welcome environment for commuter aircraft and companies to make a sort of distribution hub that will complement — and draw more — industrial activity to the port.

To do that, the port has acquired the use of a fuel tanker to provide Jet-A fuel for aircraft in the short term. That tanker will be replaced with a 20,000-gallon fuel tank that will be permanently installed. Additionally, he hopes to add length to the port’s current airstrip to allow it to handle slightly larger aircraft than it is currently capable of.

“We’ve got hold on some acreage right now and we’re going through the various studies and I’m coordinating with the FAA about the realistic opportunities of expanding the port and perhaps extending the runway and bringing in (larger) aircraft,” Lanman said.

With that effort, Lanman said he was also proud to have been able to stop the demolition of some World War II hangars that the port is refurbishing. That project will save not only historic buildings but also money spent to provide facilities for potential tenants at the port.

“It’s a matter of renovation, which yes, it’s not cheap, but it’s not like (inspectors) came back and said these buildings need to be condemned (because) they’re about ready to fall. That’d be a different story. But to tear down history when they could be saved, to me, is unacceptable,” Lanman said.

One tenant has also agreed to move out of a hangar and into a more traditional warehouse to expand the port’s capability of housing aircraft Lanman said he knows fly near the port’s airstrip and would find its facilities convenient, especially with the added access to Jet-A.

There is also a good location at the port to establish a business air park that would draw in companies and aircraft that need such a facility.

Lanman said the port also has access to rail and is a hub for motor traffic as well, making it easy for products to be delivered and distributed from the area. Additionally, an Amtrak stop, being upgraded in 2023, allows travel to and from Ephrata’s downtown.

Lanman knows the Port of Ephrata isn’t likely going to be the trade and research hub that Moses Lake’s port is, but he said it’s a matter of growing the port into what it has the potential to be — an economic force for the benefit of Ephrata and the surrounding area.

“What we’re trying to do is just be economically viable and contribute to the community, the county, the (Columbia) Basin,” Lanman said. “That’s our objective. All power to Moses Lake, but we, I think, have a responsibility here to take advantage of this infrastructure and have it producing for the county and the community — specifically in Ephrata. And so, there’s jobs to be brought here, and there’s money to be spent here.”

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R. Hans “Rob” Miller may be reached at editor@columbiabasinherald.com.