The benefits of having a modern, efficient, safe air travel system for communities across our state cannot be overstated. From tourism to manufacturing, when we improve our air travel system, we make it that much easier for people to travel and goods to ship. Simply put, better air travel means a stronger economy.

That’s why, as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I have worked hard to make sure Minnesota airports have the funding they need to grow and expand. These efforts will be realized this week when the Koochiching County-International Falls Airport Commission holds a groundbreaking ceremony for phase one of a major renovation project of the Falls International Airport.

Phase one of the project will replace the existing terminal which was constructed in the late 1970s, when Vice President Walter Mondale assisted in the ribbon cutting. The new terminal will be able to accommodate more passengers and will improve and enlarge the secure area where passengers wait for flights by adding bathrooms and the ability to buy food and beverages. The project also includes the construction of jetway, which will allow passengers to move from the terminal to the aircraft through a secure, and perhaps most important for the “Icebox of the Nation,” a weather-free walkway from the terminal to the airplane where passengers won’t be subjected to the cold or rain.

In addition to state and local funding, this important project was made possible with more than $3 million in Federal Aviation Administration funds, which I have consistently fought to secure for our airports. I am also a cosponsor of the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act to ensure that smaller airports can continue to receive funds from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program even if they have a temporary reduction in the number of passengers they are serving.

I have also worked with my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016. This bipartisan reauthorization bill is essential to helping airports continue to grow while enhancing safety and strengthening security. Later this week, we expect to pass a bill to reauthorize the FAA through September of 2017 that will contain many of these important safety and security provisions.

Charles Lindbergh, who grew up in Minnesota, once said that flying an airplane was a “dream that turned into reality.” Today, air travel has turned into a necessity for economies to seamlessly move people and goods. This project at Falls International Airport will help create good local jobs, help expand the economy, and help make traveling to and from this beautiful part of our state that much easier.