AUBURN — A bigger terminal at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport means more to the community than just a bigger space.
"The airport has always provided access for economic development," Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said Thursday morning. "Now, it has a more attractive front door."
Twin Cities elected officials, employees and economic development staffers were on hand as the airport officially cut the ribbon on a 4,500-square-foot expansion and opened it for tours.
"The airport has been the key to major economic development in both communities," Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce President Chip Morrison said. "We can take pride in the airport keying the kind of development we want for our communities. This brings us into a new phase and it's a totally beautiful facility compared to what it was. It is a gateway."
The new terminal more than doubled the size of the airport building, creating room for an expanded Landing Strip Cafe and areas that could be used for passenger air travel. It now includes a baggage area, an open waiting area and a room that can be used as a secure passenger pre-boarding area.
"It takes no prognostication to say people will be impressed as they come to our community," Morrison said.
It's also energy-efficient and includes better insulation, windows and a heating and air-conditioning system.
The expansion cost $925,000, much of it paid with federal grants and matching money from the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.
Airport Manager Rick Lanman said a new air center will move into the expanded terminal. Operated by the airport, it will provide fixed-base operator support: pilot flight planning areas, fuel service, de-icing and some repairs.
"Basically, we want to up the game on customer service," Lanman said. "I think we can become a really major player in what's going on in Maine. Customer service is going to be our focus."
The terminal replaced a structure that was built in 1958.