Redone airport can help economy

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Typically, the first impression one gets of Shelby County is positive. The beautiful rolling hills, the excellent schools, the dynamic economy and the warm people all help to paint a wonderful picture for newcomers and visitors.

But until recently, those traveling in and out of the Shelby County airport might gather quite a different impression of our county and its people. Dirty bathrooms, difficulty refueling and a lack of comfortable places for pilots to rest are a few of the complaints I have heard over the years.

Those complaints led county leaders to take management of the airport more than a year ago, and to invest $750,000 in creating a first-class facility.

To be sure, the perspectives of those flying in and out of Shelby County’s airport do not directly impact most of us. Or at least that is the assumption many would make. The truth of the matter is that a well run airport with first-class facilities and services is an economic engine in and of itself.

It helps in the recruitment of new business and industry creating jobs and fueling our local economy. And a good airport helps retain existing employers who might look elsewhere for relocation or expansion if transportation is a deciding factor for them.

County employees and inmate labor helped keep costs within reason, saving taxpayers considerable money.

The renovations include a new lobby, which offers Wi-Fi Internet access and plasma TVs. Items of critical importance to pilots and their passengers have also been added or upgraded, including self-service refueling, weather mapping and flight planning. A new break room, bathrooms and a well-outfitted conference room round out what is now a very impressive facility.

More than 50 planes use Shelby County’s airport on any given day. That number is certain to increase thanks to the newly improved facilities.