Despite turbulence that's shaken the construction economy, Provo leaders said Thursday that a new Provo Municipal Airport terminal, which is anticipated to be a major boon for the Utah County economy, remains on schedule to arrive on time next year.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, other government leaders and crews gathered at the site Thursday for a topping out ceremony, where crews locked the highest beam of the new structure — signed by all the people who made the terminal possible — into place.
It was a celebrated moment for the $55 million project that began in November 2019. Kaufusi and other city officials said everything remains on schedule for the airport to be completed on budget and for it to open in June 2022.
“It's a great step to be at right now,” Kaufusi said. “We've worked so hard, and we've done it in such a short amount of time.”
Given constraints in the materials market, it's been difficult for project leaders to ensure anything remains on time or under budget. Brian Torgersen, the city's director of public services, said Provo was “lucky” to acquire steel and other materials early in the project.
The construction industry is still in the middle of a well-documented shortage of steel, concrete and many other building materials. Torgersen pointed out that the ground he stood on as he spoke with members of the media Thursday was an area where a concrete apron should already be.
“The concrete availability and supply is short, suppliers are limiting delivery to customers and that's one thing we're dealing with on the apron,” he said. “Fortunately, the apron's not a critical path. As far as the building's concerned, we've been able to manage quite well and pour out most of the concrete.”
Even with that and a few other minor snags, he said he believes the city will be able to meet all the targeted deadlines as work continues to hum along.
Kaufusi said it turned out to be “a blessing” that the city was able to acquire materials when it did. It's allowed them to stockpile all the parts needed for the project that are now in much shorter supply.
“We're really lucky that we kind of hit the sweet spot before all of this commotion with building,” she said.
The expanded Provo airport won't compete with Salt Lake City International Airport — an airport that opened new terminals last year — by any stretch of the imagination, but officials believe it does set the airport up to be the state's second-busiest airport.
That would mean big business for Utah County. The city estimated in 2019 that the airport would bring $15 million in economic impact to the county, and Kaufusi said the goal is to have 22 flights daily.
That's a big change for the airport, too. The mayor added that the airport struggled for some time to get airlines to conduct service from Provo. As it stands, Allegiant Air conducts some flights to a handful of cities in the surrounding West.
But that tone changed since the expansion to the airport began, Kaufusi said. She said airlines began “clamoring” to ask about flights to and from Provo and it appears that at least two more airlines could be accommodated in the near future.
“We're building it to grow, so potentially out to 10 (gates),” she said.
Once completed, officials said they believe the airport expansion will help the growing region thrive even more than it currently is. They envision the airport as an alternate air travel location, especially as travel to and from Provo and the Salt Lake City airport is slated to become increasingly difficult as the population of the Wasatch Front grows in the coming decades.
“This is just such an economic driver for Provo. This is going to help all of us,” Kaufusi said. “All ships will rise with this new airport coming into Provo — and it's not just Provo, it's the whole county impacted for the positive.”