Thief River Falls Regional Airport recieves $7.5 million in federal funding

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith announced the funding on Friday, March 25.

Darryl Tveitbakk, Pennington County commissioner and chair of the airport authority, talks with Sens. Tina Smith, left, and Amy Klobuchar, right, at the Thief River Falls Regional Airport on March 25, 2022.
Ingrid Harbo / Grand Forks Herald

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have secured $7.5 million in federal funding for a new cargo hangar at the Thief River Falls Regional Airport. Klobuchar and Smith announced the funding on Friday, March 25 at a ceremony at the airport.

“Tina and I really felt like we knew what was needed out here and how important this project is, and how important it is with the geographic location and also all of the weather issues,” Klobuchar said.

The new cargo hangar will provide an indoor space at the airport for maintenance and loading and unloading operations, with the ability to fit two planes. One of the main reasons for the new hangar is to provide a safe, warm space for maintenance and work at the airport. With a temperature of 25 degrees and wind gust of 35 miles per hour outside the hangar, Friday’s blustery conditions served as an example of the conditions technicians often endure when working outdoors.

“Especially today, it is a good thing to be able to do some of this work indoors, not only outdoors,” Smith said.

Once the new hangar is constructed, the current hangar will be available for use by the airport’s commercial provider Denver Airlines, which is set to renew it’s contract with the airport in June.


The federal funds will partner with a $5.5 million Minnesota state bond that came out of the 2020 legislative session. After the pandemic caused building and material costs to increase, airport leadership decided to pursue more funding.

“We realized $5.5 million wasn’t going to cut it, so we went with the additional request and now because of the design being done, we’re as shovel ready as can be,” said Joe Hendrick, airport director.

He says bidding will start next month and hopes to break ground by the end of summer. On this timeline, the hangar would be operational in 2023.

Also attending were representatives from area industry like Digi-Key and Textron, which owns Arctic Cat.

“This airport is, as you know, a major economic force in the region and it ships over, I just learned, 1 million packages a year,” Klobuchar said. “And here’s my favorite fact: it’s the third biggest cargo airport, only bested by Minneapolis and Rochester.”

Dave Doherty, president of Digi-Key, said the airport allows Digi-Key to transport product further and faster.

“We’re able to take orders at 8 p.m. and get it out that night to Louisville or Memphis, Cincinnati or DHL, the next day for whatever customer base,” he said.

The $7.5 million is directed to the airport through Congressionally Directed Spending, commonly referred to as earmarks, where U.S. senators choose projects to fund using federal money. This round of CDS is the first since the practice was banned by both chambers of congress in 2011, but it returns with more restrictive guidelines than in the past. The money comes from the $1.5 trillion federal spending bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 15.


The project at the Thief River Falls Regional Airport is one of many projects selected for CDS in Minnesota, with spending totaling around $170 million for the state.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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