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City works with airport business owner to stay

The city of Wadena wants to work with Stanley Weitemier of Wadena Aviation, Inc. to keep him and his business located at the city airport.

Weitemier told the city council that due to the downturn in the economy he decided to terminate his contract with the city. Weitemier is a part-time manager at the airport and rents a hangar for his business, which involves performing inspections and repairing private planes.

"Basically the economy is as everybody's heard and knows is going downhill," Weitemier said. "I've lost customers."

A lot of his business comes from Litchfield and Little Falls with some from Park Rapids, he said. A Litchfield customer has three planes and decided it's too costly to bring them up to Wadena. Other people have simply sold planes or just parked them when fuel reached prices of $5 and more a gallon last year, Weitemier said.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said the city had to acknowledge receiving Weitemier's application to terminate the contract, but wants to work with him to keep the business open if possible.

The council directed City Administrator Brad Swenson and Economic Development Director Dean Uselman to work on a business plan with Weitemier.

Swenson suggested a seasonal business as a possible option so Weitemier could save money by not having to pay to heat the hangar in the winter.

Having Weitemier manage the airport as well as operate a business there has been a win-win situation, Swenson said. The cost of paying him to oversee the facility for the city and what Weitemier pays to rent the hangar is a similar amount of money.

"So it's pretty much a wash," he said.

One of the reasons the city built the airport the way it did was to allow for a business like Weitemier's to operate out there, Swenson said.

"If we can't come to some way of keeping Stanley we're going to have a big void out there," he said. "And we're probably going to have a heck of a time trying to get somebody else to come back in, especially in this economy."

The airport is a major piece of economic development, Wolden said. Congressman Jim Oberstar has lauded Wadena as a transportation hub because of U.S. Highway 10, U.S. Highway 71, State Highway 29 and the airport.

Weitemier agreed to work with the city to see if they could find a way for his business to stay.

"I like it out there and I appreciate being able to work here," he said. "It's a good facility."