EAGLE MOUNTAIN — For Nick Berg, the proposed $15 million airport in Eagle Mountain isn't simply a good idea, it's the reason his town was built.
Before the property was purchased, Berg was already drawing the runway on a map.
That was six years ago, and now Berg stands on that very spot and smiles. Below him stretches a runway that will eventually reach 10,000 feet, the third-longest among Utah airports.
Berg expects former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn — for whom Eagle Mountain's airport will be named — and Gov. Mike Leavitt at the planned September groundbreaking.
Berg, airport manager and real estate consultant, says the event will fascinate the aeronautical industry.
He may be right. It's an unusual project not just because of the length of the runway, but because of the type of airport Berg wants to build.
The Jake Garn Airport is classified as a private general aviation airport, which means commercial jets cannot use it. Berg wants private citizens and businesses to build hangars right below their home or office.
He says the convenience of having a jet on site will bring corporations to Eagle Mountain that can't afford to build a hangar at a major airport.
There are 5,300 public airparks in the country, but Warren Morningstar of the American Owners and Pilots Association is not familiar with a model that combines a residential airpark with a corporate park.
Morningstar said there is a need for more general aviation airports. Such airports are dropping at the rate of one every two weeks, Morningstar says, and most commercial airports don't have room to grow. At Salt Lake International Airport, the waiting list for hangar space is about 20 pages long.
Enter Jake Garn Airport and Sky Trails Residential Community. Berg understands the need for more general aviation hangars. He's not worried residents won't want hangar homes; he already has reservations on 17 lots.
Berg's goal is to lure corporations to build headquarters at the Eagle Mountain airport. He's looking for the kind of success the city of Scottsdale, Ariz., has with its municipal airport.
A 2,600-acre commercial park surrounding the Arizona airport is home to 25 national and regional corporations. The airport provides 30,000 jobs and generates $91 million annually to the Scottsdale area.
This is the kind of tax base Berg and other Eagle Mountain planners want. But can he attract a Fortune 500 company to a town that doesn't have a 7-Eleven?
"I think it's a slam dunk," Berg said. "In 10 years there will be 50,000 people in Eagle Mountain."
Berg bases this projection on studies by Envision Utah, a nonprofit group that researches the state's growth. He thinks corporations that appreciate Utah's lifestyle will build offices here because of Eagle Mountain's location.
"It's the only place where you can fly non-stop to Frankfurt or Tokyo," Berg likes to say. He says the convenience of a corporate jet parked below the office is a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
Berg's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to promote the airport is coming fast. He says Utah airports will be so crowded during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, pilots for corporate sponsors will have to park their jets at airports in Wendover, Nev., and Evanston, Wyo.
He plans to have the airport finished before the 2002 Winter Games are staged. According to plans, there will be a terminal big enough to house corporate jets, motel rooms and a restaurant.
"We'll get somebody. I know we will, because we're going to be landing a lot of corporate jets during the Olympics," Berg says.
Nobody's saying Berg can't do it. He has the support of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, an agency that works closely with the state and FAA to make sure there is enough space for airports to be built.
Barry Banks, transportation engineer for the regional council, doubts many planes will land at Eagle Mountain during the Olympics. He does think, though, that the airport will be successful in the long run.
"I think it's a great project with great potential," said Banks, who was involved in the planning of 14 Utah airports.
He helped Berg find a consultant who created a plan for the airport and has been active in making the Eagle Mountain airport eligible for federal funds.
Berg also has the support of Garn, one of the most prominent Utahns in the aviation field. Garn was the first U.S. senator to orbit the Earth in a space shuttle and his father was Utah's first director of aeronautics.
"Naming this airport after Jake Garn is a fitting tribute to an outstanding senator and his legacy," Leavitt said. "The man loves airplanes and everything about aviation."
So does Berg. He has been a pilot for seven years, and it is this passion that drives him to invest so much time and money into the airport.
If Eagle Mountain doesn't grow — or if big companies don't come to the west desert town — a lot of people could lose a lot of money. Is that something he worries about? Standing on a strip of runway that seems to stretch forever into open space, Berg pauses to consider the question.
Then he smiles. "Why wouldn't people want to come here?"