A first-of-its-kind corporate logo will be branded onto each of the four sides of the 100-foot-tall Medford airport tower, the Medford City Council decided Thursday night.
"Medford, Oregon, is open for business," Councilman Chris Corcoran said.
The City Council determined the economic benefits on putting advertising on the airport tower outweigh the negatives. One of the main benefits is it provides the airport with more dollars to potentially cut landing fees, which could attract more destinations for Southern Oregon residents travelers.
"I'm prepared to take a little heat, even from my friends, about this," Councilman Al Densmore said.
The council approved an amendment to the city code allowing a 675-square-foot sign on each side of the 35-foot-wide tower.
No electronic signs would be allowed, and the lighting would not obscure the vision of air traffic controllers. The amendment will only apply to the Medford airport tower.
Existing code only permitted a 70-square-foot sign on each side.
Airport director Bern Case said he would receive $3,000 a month from an aviation company, but didn't reveal the name because he the lease is in negotiations. Over the 10-year lease, the airport would receive $360,000.
Case said it would likely be several months before the signs are in place, but he said he thought Medford could be the first in the country to brand an airport tower.
"I like the term 'branding,' " he said. "It's better than advertising."
Case cited the U.S. Cellular Community Park in Medford as an example of corporate branding on a civic facility.
"It's not that we are money-grubbing," he said.
The airport is a self-sustaining entity and extra dollars help offset landing fees, which makes the airport more attractive to airlines, Case said.
In addition, Medford competes against other airports in the region.
He said the airport has an economic impact on the region totalling $250 million annually.
Case said the signs will be tasteful, and the aviation company in question has a good reputation.
Other business such as Lithia Motors on Highway 62 were allowed to place signs that didn't meet code, Case noted.
"I don't want to be treated special," he said. "I don't want to be treated any worse."
Case said he hopes to attract an Allegiant Air flight from Medford to Hawaii. He said Allegiant has purchased Boeing 757s as part of its expansion efforts.
"Could we fill a plane to Hawaii," he said. "You bet — once a week."
Only Councilwoman Karen Blair voted against the amendment to the city.
She said if an airline advertises on the tower, other airlines that land in Medford could find it offensive.
"I'm uneasy with it," she said.
Both the Medford Planning Commission and Citizens Planning Advisory Committee didn't support the request to place large signs on the tower.
Brad Martinkovich, a Central Point resident, warned the council that the amendment could open a Pandora's box, citing the possibility that a strip club could request to place advertising on the city's parking garage.
Martinkovich said he didn't buy the airport's assertion it needs the extra dollars.
"I don't believe this money is need for the airport to stay afloat," he said.
Michael Quilty, who is on the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Airport Advisory Committee, said it's important for the airport to attract local dollars because they can be leveraged to obtain grants.
"As we all know, funds are scarce today," he said.
Councilman Bob Strosser said he was concerned about giving preferential treatment to a government entity, but said the economic benefits also weighed strongly in his mind.
"It's an unusual building," he said. "I have a tendency to support this, but I have reservations."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.