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The final phase of the Eastern Iowa Airport’s modernization project represents a key investment not only in the airport, but the region’s economic vitality as well. That was part of the message from Gov. Kim Reynolds Monday, March 6 as airport officials and local leaders gathered on the airport tarmac for a ceremony to mark the formal groundbreaking for the last phase of the Eastern Iowa Airport’s $120 million-plus modernization – a project that’s been underway for more than a decade. “Every dollar of airport capital expenditures results in about $16 back to Iowa’s economy,” Gov. Reynolds said in prepared remarks, delivered in her absence Monday by Cedar Rapids mayor Tiffany O’Donnell. “It's hard to imagine a more effective one-time, high-return investment or anything more critical for Iowa’s long-term growth, prosperity and economic development. As Iowa’s second-largest airport, accounting for around 30% of our annual enplanements and nearly $322 million in annual economic output, the Eastern Iowa Airport is an essential piece of the puzzle. It helps stimulate tourism, encourages business growth and connects our state to national and global markets.” Work on the fourth phase of the modernization project, with an estimated budget of $68 million, includes remodeling the final portion of the airport, adding 32,000 square feet to the concourse, as well as four additional jet bridges, a larger patio, a sensory room and a pet relief area. Once completed, the terminal will be ready to serve air travelers for the next 30 years, Eastern Iowa Airport director Marty Lenss said. “Today is really a big damn day for Eastern Iowa,” Mr. Lenss said, repeating a catchprase and noting that the terminal modernization project began in 2012, more than a decade ago. “Today's groundbreaking represents the final investment of over $120 million in the public's airport terminal,” he said. Of that total $120 million expenditure for the entire four-phase project, he said, 32% comes through FAA grants; 25% from the Iowa Commercial Aviation Infrastructure Fund created by Gov. Reynolds, via a recently-awarded $28.3 million grant; and 43% from Cedar Rapids Airport Commission funds generated by airport passengers. “You might notice there's no debt in that conversation, and there's no local taxpayer dollars in that conversation,” Mr. Lenss noted. “I can tell you having worked at other airports, that's very impressive.” Another speaker at the Eastern Iowa Airport groundbreaking, U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, said the airport’s extensive renovations have made a significant impact on visitors’ perception of Eastern Iowa. I often strike up conversations with people as I’m in the terminal waiting for fights,” Ms. Hinson said. “We hear it directly from them, I hear it from podcasts nationally talking about people flying through our airport – from the friendliness of the team to the facilities to how smoothly everything operates here, we offer a Tier 1 level experience here in Eastern Iowa. I'm proud of that experience that CID offers to travelers, and this investment will continue that mission of excellence in air travel.” Other speakers Monday included Iowa Department of Transportation director Scott Marler and airport commissioner David Nieuwsma. Construction is expected to take 18-24 months to complete and create an estimated 450 jobs. Rinderknecht Construction will serve as the project’s general contractor.