A little more than two decades ago, a group of citizen activists in north King and south Snohomish counties organized Save Our Communities to block commercial passenger service at Paine Field in Everett, fearing what they called a “Sea-Tac north” scenario. Fresh energy from a group of mostly business leaders calling themselves the Fly From Everett movement later accelerated the debate.
The stated mission of Save Our Communities was to preserve quality of life. Its members feared eroding home values, reduced tax revenue and negative impact on the health of the community if commercial passenger service was permitted at Paine Field.
As a member of the Fly From Everett movement and a local businessman trying to attract jobs to the region, I was in most of those conversations and felt the sneers of our opponents and their political friends. The Save Our Communities notion of “Sea-Tac north” never quite made sense to many of us. With only 1.5 million people living within a 40-minute drive to Paine Field, there wasn’t a business case for an airport that big. I could never imagine that, nor would any of us have advocated for it. But we kept talking past each other as we tried to find middle ground.
As it happened, passenger service began in March. There are 24 daily departures. While we only have anecdotal evidence, what we see so far suggests a win-win.
Businesses and citizens are much better served now. Passenger service has reduced the need to fight traffic en route to Sea-Tac on I-5. New non-stop flights from Everett to key cities in the West will affect business decisions and could attract and strengthen local jobs.
The quality of the privately financed Propeller Airports terminal is a brand-booster for Everett and the region, leaving newcomers and prospective job creators visiting our region with a strong first impression.
At a recent Snohomish County Airport Commission meeting (I’m an at-large member), airport staff noted that they had received not a single noise complaint about commercial aircraft serving the new terminal during the first months of operation. Some locals who once fought the idea are having a change of heart after seeing the new terminal and using it themselves. Real-estate agents and property managers are seeing demand at the same or higher levels in Mukilteo and elsewhere around the airport. Access to commercial passenger service is an attractive benefit of buying or renting in the area.
The Save Our Communities website still predicts property devaluation, traffic congestion, noise and pollution, but the last post appears to have been before the new terminal opened. They should now declare victory alongside Fly From Everett and other passenger-service advocates. It’s time for the community to come together to leverage this new asset, to continue strengthening our aerospace employment base while we diversify by attracting companies in King County, the Bay Area and elsewhere who want to leave behind high prices and long commutes and need ready access to an airport.
Save Our Communities did, indeed, save its community. Business now needs to deliver the benefits it promised.
Columnist Tom Hoban is chairman and co-founder of Hoban Family Office, a real estate investment and services enterprise in Everett.