Platte County received a major New Year’s boost a few weeks ago. The significance got lost a bit in the news because of football, impending Christmas week and the fact that, based on past experience, we’ll believe it when we see it. But the announcement that a new tenant is coming to the overhaul base at the Kansas City International Airport is huge for the local economy. You have an iconic building already in place, one that most of us will always think of as the TWA overhaul base. Of course, in corporate bloodletting the good company was gutted by a Wall Street buzzard and things changed and the last logo on the based belonged to American Airlines. But American ceased its passenger jet maintenance operations there in 2010. The latest news stories in The Kansas City Star labeled the cavernous shops as the KCI Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Base. Some other companies have operations in the bays, which include seven million square feet of work room. But nothing hums on the level of the old TWA days. Whatever the shop name, here’s a hearty welcome to the Northland for Aviation Technical Services, also known as ATS. According to The Star’s report, the company plans to hire 540 new employees and 40 contract workers within the next five years. About 607,000 square feet will be leased and the company based in Everett, Wash., will invest $7 million in the maintenance plant. I am not a major advocate for growth and sprawl, based on my personal preferences — or as the old BPA used to say, country living at the city’s doorstep. The new jobs at the overhaul base will boost growth. However I’m pleased because this is a longtime building already in place. We have a lot of working people trained in aviation mechanics who lost work due to downsizing or shutdown as TWA and American maintenance operations wound down. There are young folks training in school for aviation jobs just because the airport is near. And while some of our existing housing sales, office leasing and retail business continues to do well despite a poor economy, some suffer. Skilled worker jobs affect all of Kansas City. For example, many of the workers at the Harley Davidson motorcycle plant likely commute from outside the county. But when you’re close to where the jobs are located, the boost is a little bigger. Here’s another holiday plum to ponder. Southwest Airlines is one of ATS’s biggest customers and also operates the most flights from KCI. I am not an eager air traveler these days when airport security means long lines, fumbling for shoes and things as you’re watched at the conveyor belt, and paranoia permeating the air. During my last air travel in September to upstate New York, on the return, I alone was singled out of the traveler line by a TSA employee and had my hands scraped for signs of bomb making residue. So creepy. I guess I looked threatening to someone in a hidden room. But when I must fly, Southwest Airlines is easily my favorite airline. They’re always my first choice when possible. The personnel are friendly and the airplanes more comfortable. So if ATS helps keep Southwest growing at KCI, yahoo. ATS officials have said they will use the KCI base to service wide-body and narrow-body commercial and military jet aircraft. They will paint fuselages and do airframe maintenance, working on 150 planes a year when up to full speed. Operations are to begin this spring. Here’s another good trend on the aviation front, I hope. It was announced last fall that the federal government may allow airlines to permit passengers to talk on cell phones during flight. Frequent fliers are begging the aviation industry and government regulators for that not to happen. They cannot stand the thought of listening to inane conversations during long flights. It would be one more torture, to go along with cramped seats in a narrow tube filled with often odd strangers. Oh please, keep the cell phones silent. Regardless, the KCI corridor is a key economic backbone for us. Getting the overhaul base busier is a beautiful start for 2014. Happy New Year to you, and may your air travels be peaceful.