Longtime Queen City residents remember the tiny tower and dinky terminal at the old Grenier Field that saw its best days during World War II. Many of today’s citizens are unaware that it was Ray Wieczorek who sparked the largest economic development project in the history of theState of New Hampshire that is now called the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. In 1961, Roscoe Ammon gave the city $500,000 for a new terminal.

It was Wieczorek who wanted to make Manchester an aviation destination city. The city was in economic doldrums as a result of five banks closing in oneday. That did not deter the fledgling Manchester Mayor from his vision of making Manchester a destination city. Ray Wieczorek spent much of his time at the statehouse getting the State Legislature and Governor to agree to guarantee bonds for an expanded terminal. “I didn’t do it alone,” Wieczorek says, “You can’t do these things alone. We needed lots of help and as Ronald Reagan always said, “It’s amazing what you can get done if you don’t care who gets credit.”

Originally, the terminal was all in Manchester, but the new terminal was situated mostly in Londonderry and this required heavy negotiations with the governing body of Londonderry to make the project work on time and under budget and fair to both communities.

The first parking garage was built and the runways were extended to accommodate the type of large aircraft needed to make Manchester a destination city. A new garage was built, parking 4,800 cars—making it the biggest garage north of Boston. Manchester not only became a destination city, but the airport is one of the fastest growing in America. The total economic impact of the Manchester Airport is $1 billion dollars and it is projected to rise to $1.5 billion in 2015.

Businesses at the airport employed 2,500 people with a payroll of $63 million dollars. These businesses invested $107 million dollars in goods and services and capital improvements for a total direct impact of $170 million dollars. The on-airport employees and firms employed an additional 1,700 people and spent $124 million dollars locally. Spending by airport visitors contributed $421 million dollars in addition to the above figures. These businesses and visitors generated an estimated 4,200 jobs with a payroll of $109 million dollars.

Manchester , Londonderry, and the rest of New Hampshire, share in these economic benefits. The airport welcomes over 4.5 million passengers each year and is projected to have the highest growth rate in New England at 88 percent by the year 2020—when passenger totals are projected to reach over 7 million. A U.S. Department of Transportation Study shows that Manchester area travelers pay some of the lowest airfares in the country, having dropped more than 13 percent in the 8 years coveredby the BTS Index—the biggest drop of any of the nation’s top 85 airports.

Yes, everywhere you go, you see the benefits of Ray Wieczorek’s vision in making Manchester a destination city. You see how Wieczorek’s political courage and strong leadership have translated into thousands of good, high-paying jobs and cut the people of New Hampshire’s air travel costs substantially.