Renovations of Rapid City Regional Airport have been finished for months, but there’s one last cost to cover.

On Thursday morning, the airport’s board of directors unanimously agreed to extend Mount Rushmore Society, which operates a gift shop near the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, a $20,000 reduction in rent for 2018 due to the loss of business during the airport's seven-week long renovation last summer. The rent reduction means the Mount Rushmore Society now owes the airport $46,863 in rent from May through December 2018.

Rent payments from the society to the airport are based on a percentage of the gift shop’s gross revenue. In 2017, the society paid about $80,000 in rent. In 2016, it was around $76,000.

“They’re a great tenant, and we’ve got a good business relationship with them,” Airport Director Patrick Dame said after the meeting. “It’s a partnership to make sure that we’re all being successful out here.”

During this past summer’s renovations, the shop’s main entrance was enlarged and its office space was relocated. The old office was converted into a kitchen to serve the airport’s new restaurant/bar area, which was previously more akin to a concession area. During the work, the front of the gift shop was shuttered.

The shop demonstrated the impact to its business to airport leadership, Dame said. Per the agreement approved Thursday, the airport and city cannot be held liable for any other impact to the society shop’s business due to the renovations.

Dame noted that since the work was completed, the shop had experienced between 5 and 25 percent growth in its monthly business.

“We do see success in that area, and we anticipate that will go forward in the future,” he said.

Numbers are up

The past two years at Rapid City Regional Airport have been record ones.

In 2018, the airport welcomed 625,918 passengers, a 5 percent increase over 2017, which was the previous record year for passengers with 595,936. The total number of passengers boarding aircraft at the airport also rose 5.3 percent in 2018 compared with 2017, from 295,215 to 310,810.

Dame believes the airport is now spending pending more money on marketing than ever before, which is part of the reason for the increase although he added it’s difficult to accurately gauge the impact.

On Thursday, the board agreed to pay Sioux Falls-based marketing and advertising firm Lawrence & Schiller $198,886 in 2019 for marketing. The airport and Lawrence & Schiller have been working together since the start of 2017. Of those funds, Schiller representatives said at the meeting that 76 percent would be spent on digital marketing and ads, with the remainder going to social media marketing and ads.

Ads on Facebook, Pinterest, and local news sites in targeted markets and in-article videos in other markets will comprise much of the firm’s efforts.

Schiller representatives said all audiences would be targeted, but specific groups would include families interested in outdoor recreation, young, active and affluent professionals, and active “empty-nesters.”

Deputy Airport Director Toni Broom noted the airport would be running a contest for free airfare beginning this spring to reward Rapid City residents for the airport’s recent successes.

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Contact Samuel Blackstone at samuel.blackstone@rapidcityjournal.com and follow him on Twitter or Facebook @SDBlackstone.

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