In September 2018, a tornado with winds estimated at 120 to 130 mph cut through the Faribault Municipal Airport on its way north.
The storm destroyed 13 buildings, including the arrival/departure building/hangar that provided pilot services, including a place to meet passengers, a flight plan area, restrooms and access to weather information.
Since then, city officials have been hard at work not only rebuilding and repairing the current facilities, but also expanding, with a hope of continued development.
To celebrate the accomplishments made in the last three years, the Faribault Municipal Airport-Liz Wall Strohfus Field hosts an open house from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.
In operation since 1947, the Faribault Airport is located at 3401 Hwy. 21 W. The event will include coffee and donuts, and have planes on display.
The event is also a great time for area residents to check out the new arrival and departure building, which was constructed following the 2018 tornado, one of 21 that hit the region the same evening.
Travis Block, who oversees the facility as part of his responsibilities as Faribault’s public works director, says final touches were put in place on the building last fall. Though the city had plans to hold an open house following the completion of the building, those were put on hold due to the pandemic. He describes the open house event as a great chance for folks to check out the new building, see what it’s all about and what goes on there.
“It’s a really nice facility that we have now,” said Block. “Post storm, we are rebuilt and are back in action. It makes the airport much more user friendly now than what we had before. People can come out and check it out.”
Airport Manager Jerry Serres added that a good portion of the airport has received a facelift since the tornado, and encourages residents to take a look at the updates and new facility.
In all, some 39 buildings at Faribault’s Municipal Airport sustained significant damage as a result of the storm, and twelve private hangars were completely destroyed.
Since the tornado, SteinAir, previously located in Farmington, built a large facility at the airport, about 15,000 square feet.
A larger airport is a key part of the city’s strategy to attract increased foreign direct investment. Over the last few years, the city has secured FDI from four international companies — Japanese owned Daikin, SageGlass, a subsidiary of France-based Saint-Gobain, Faribault Foods, owned by Mexico-based La Costena, and Aldi, a Germany-based discount supermarket chain.
The new hangar was constructed with insurance dollars as well as disaster assistance funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The new facility provides about 15,000 square-feet, including 12,800 square-feet of hangar space. By contrast, the temporary trailer that served as the airport’s Fixed Base Operator building after the permanent building was destroyed offered just 6,500 square feet.
Even the previous permanent building had just 10,000 square feet of hangar space. With the extra space, the airport’s ability to accommodate quick maintenance needs in a timely fashion and provide storage space has been greatly enhanced.