GENERAL AVIATION within a 25-mile radius of Winter Haven — most of Polk County, for all practical purposes — produces a total economic impact of more than $354.8 million each year. That’s according to the latest information available from the Alliance for Aviation Across America (, and the dollar amount probably is a conservative one.

Winter Haven Municipal Airport’s contribution to the total is about $20.8 million annually, or about 5.9 percent, the alliance reports. When a couple of projects involving Tucker Paving are both complete, Winter Haven’s airport at Gilbert Field very likely will be better positioned to have a much greater impact on the county economy.

Winter Haven city leaders have, for a long time, wanted to make the airport property along U.S. Highway 92 available for more commercial and industrial development, and they recognized the need for another north-side (terminal-side) airport entrance road. Tucker Paving was fortunate to get the job to build this road, and work started Sept. 12 at the signaled intersection where Lynchburg Road meets the well-traveled U.S. 92.

Later, on Oct. 24, the Winter Haven City Commission voted unanimously to award our company the bid to extend the airport’s landing strip taxiways. The project cost is about $4.1 million, with 90 percent of the total coming from the Federal Aviation Administration and with the Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Winter Haven each picking up 5 percent of the cost, or about $205,000 each.

Both of these airport projects are nice ones for Tucker Paving, and the company’s management and employees are grateful for them. We’re also pleased to know there’s a good chance our work will lead to more good things for the airport in the arenas of industry, commerce, and overall economic development. We get the sense that Winter Haven Municipal Airport is an economic sleeping giant that’s just on the brink of waking up and taking off.

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