The Rhode Island Airport Corporation announced Friday that it would form a task force of experts and enlist local committees in a multiyear "strategic business and master planning process" for Rhode Island’s five general aviation airports. This effort will include Westerly State Airport, North Central State Airport in Smithfield, and state airports at Block Island, Newport, and Quonset.

The corporation said it would convene experts in infrastructure, planning, finance, the law, and property management, along with consultants, to evaluate business development opportunities and potential infrastructure needs.

"Additionally, RIAC will reach out to town managers and local officials to form committees in each town or city where the airports are located," the agency said in its announcement. "RIAC expects that each of these committees would be inclusive and representative of a large number of stakeholders including neighbors, airport tenants, community leaders, town officials, business owners, tourism officials, members of the General Assembly and members of the general aviation community."

The task force would work on a master plan that would include the following:

• A 10-year facilities plan for each airport that would evaluate building conditions, priorities, and funding sources. Such a plan would also consider "how improved facilities could impact rental rates for current tenants."

• A 10-year airfield Plan that would adopt a pavement management schedule.

• A 10-year business plan that would evaluate economic development conditions and opportunities.

In a statement, Iftikhar Ahmad, RIAC president and CEO, said that at the end of the process, "each community will hopefully find common ground to determine what these local airports can and should be. RIAC can support these conversations and produce reliable data and evaluation points for local officials to consider, but we cannot do it alone. Any and all opportunities for development will need the support of local zoning and planning ordinances and the support of the community.”

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