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Westchester Airport Group to Host Community Outreach Luncheon

October 2, 2012

Establishing common ground between the airport community and local business leaders is at the root of the upcoming "Westchester Business Takes Flight" luncheon, scheduled for Oct. 4 at New York's Westchester County Airport (HPN) and sponsored by the Westchester Aviation Association (WAA).

The event will feature guest speakers Selena Shilad, executive director of the Aviation Alliance Across America, and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. The keynote address will be given by Westchester County business leader Paul Bucha, the former chairman of Wheeling-Pittsburg Steel Corp. and a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam era.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Courtesy of Joe VerickerThe luncheon will also include the presentation of donations by WAA to the Wounded Warrior Project and Veterans Advantage charities.

Jeff Lee, former chairman of the NBAA Board of Directors and past WAA president, said the luncheon is an opportunity for Westchester-area business and government leaders to learn more about the airport's social and economic contributions to the region.

"The communities around Westchester have something of a love/hate relationship with their airport," he said. "Everybody loves the convenience in having a commercial and general aviation facility nearby, but they also question, 'why here?' We are motivated to demonstrate that we're members of the community, too."

The luncheon is part of WAA's continuing community outreach efforts, which also include aircraft displays and hosting aviation career fairs for local youth. More than 300 government leaders, businesspeople and Chamber of Commerce officials attended the last 'Westchester Business Takes Flight' event in 2010.

Lee termed these efforts "a path to dialogue" that may serve as an example for other airports dealing with sometimes-contentious relationships with their surrounding communities.

"We aim to demonstrate how local aviation associations may engage with their neighbors to highlight the value of aviation to the region," he said. "All too often, we don't take time to get to know each other. If you're introduced before potentially contentious issues arise, and you’ve had a chance to build a relationship and understand one another, that creates a solid foundation going forward.

“We all need to be good neighbors,” Lee added. “There are reasonable people on both sides.”

The WAA notes that Westchester County Airport contributes nearly $1 billion annually to the Westchester region economy, supporting more than 1,300 jobs. In addition to having a vibrant business aviation and GA pilot community, HPN is also served by commercial carriers including American and JetBlue. The airport is headquarters for the Corporate Angel Network (CAN), as well as the New York Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.