In 1971, Harding Mott, then president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, was part of a delegation of civic leaders who met with federal officials in Washington, D.C., to propose that Flint become home to a regional airport. According to news reports, representatives of the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Commerce were intrigued by the idea — having never before been approached about a regional airport based primarily on cargo, rather than passenger, needs.
Interest in developing the freight-handling capacity of what was then Bishop Airport stemmed from needs identified in a report developed by a number of local businesses, industries and nonprofits, with input from state transportation agencies. Through the years, the Foundation provided support for a number of economic development studies examining the potential of Bishop as a regional asset. Foundation staff also served on a number of study and advisory committees during the 1980s related to the development of an airport authority and provided technical support for airport land use and master planning initiatives.
In 1987, the Bishop International Airport Authority was established, creating a countywide agency to oversee airport operations. That year, Mott Foundation funding helped pave the way for the expansion of the airport’s cargo hub. Mott’s willingness to support the expansion of the airport’s cargo capacity was based in part on the recommendations of a countywide economic development plan. Flint already had been granted Foreign Trade Zone status, which opened up the opportunity to increase freight traffic.
The Foundation granted $450,000 to construct a 190,000-square-foot ramp for freight traffic. Those funds also contributed to the construction of a 300-foot connector taxi-lane and a 150-foot service road, linking the ramp to an existing freight facility. The grant leveraged construction of a 48,000-square-foot addition to the freight facilities. That project included more than $1.2 million in private investment.
In 1991, in recognition of the airport’s economic development potential, the Foundation made a $6 million grant to help construct a $34.6 million passenger terminal, which has been expanded since then. The funding also helped support the relocation and upgrading of West Bristol Road to create a five-lane arterial connecting I-69 on the west to I-75 on the east.