Overseeing operations of an airport might at times be a challenging task, but that’s what Clinton Torp loves about his profession.
“I enjoy the complex variety of tasks and challenges that I get to work on every day,” said Torp, airport director at the La Crosse Regional Airport. “For me a job must be more than a paycheck or obligation, but must also be something that I am passionate about and that makes a difference.”
It certainly does make a difference.
On any given day, Torp could be negotiating airline agreements, developing capital improvements, managing the equivalent of 15 full-time employees, and working on lease agreements for the airport, which spans 1,400 acres.
“That’s a lot of land,” he said.
It’s also a big responsibility, one that centers on a mission of providing the safe and efficient transportation of people and goods. He takes the mission seriously.
“I think it’s just an intrinsic trait of mine,” Torp said. “I just enjoy making things better.”
Aviation runs in the family. Coming from a multi-generational line of sky lovers (his mom was a flight attendant, and his grandfather was an aerospace engineer, to name but two), Torp wanted to pursue a career in the air, but the field was drying up in the wake of 9-11.
After pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of North Dakota, Torp earned an M.B.A. at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He kept asking himself one question: “What can I do that doesn’t require flying?”
It turns out much more than even his directorship, although he was able to earn that title at a very early age, focusing on investments in the community, as well as quality air transportation.
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Torp is also a board member on the 7 Rivers Alliance, where he’s able to enhance the economic advantages of the region and ensure that communities can continue to grow and prosper: He wants the region to be identified as a high-quality place to work and live.
He’s also a member at the La Crosse Downtown Rotary Club, where he said he has the opportunity to serve the community through the multitude of good deeds club members perform.
Vicki Markussen, executive director of the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce who nominated Torp for Rising Stars Under 40, said he’s done an amazing job in La Crosse.
“Since Clinton began,” Markussen said, “the visibility of the airport as an economic engine has become much more apparent. Clinton is actively working and communicating his efforts to attract additional airlines and flights to the La Crosse market. Clinton has enlightened the community on issues impacting our airport’s viability including pilot shortages and the dependence on Fort McCoy for our current levels.”
“Leakage,” she said, has become a common phrase in economic development because of Torp’s efforts to raise awareness of the loss of airline travelers to other markets.
“Clinton’s reputation in Madison, Wis., and Washington, D.C., is evident in his advocating for our airport,” Markussen said. “The acquisition of federal dollars to remodel our airport has done wonders in projecting a professional image for our community and the sense of being a destination.”
It’s an impressive set of skills for the young professional. Even so, Torp doesn’t center the credit on himself; he focuses on those he works with, a collective community partnership.
“I depend on the people who work here and their skills,” Torp said. “There’s nothing I do on a day-to-day basis that I could do on my own.”