Airport Manager Ron Burckhalter hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to introduce the finished portion of the runway expansion project to the public last week.
“We added 1,000 feet in length and widened it by 25 feet,” he said during the event.
The expansion project cost about $3 million, with $2.8 million provided by the Federal Aviation Administration and Georgia Department of Labor and the remainder from Henry County.
The extended runway now exceeds the minimum threshold required by most insurance companies who previously would not cover many pilots who flew into the airport.
“Before the extension, many [plane] owners were flying in at their own risk because the runway was too short,” Burckhalter said.
Speakers at the ribbon cutting, including county Commissioner Brian Preston and Steve Justice, director for the Center of Innovation for Aerospace at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, addressed the expanded runway’s importance to economic growth.
“The enhancements to the county’s airport will create more high-paying jobs in aviation maintenance and repair,” Preston said.
The commissioner and director agreed on the potential for the improvements to be a magnet for business opportunities from around the state, the country and the world.
“Airports attract economic development and this improved runway will bring in a growing number of corporations which need nearby airfields for their operations and travel,” Justice said.
He also said the county can expect to see financial benefits from ad valorem taxes from more aircraft housed at the airport and sales tax from more fuel being sold.
“It’s interesting to note that while Hartsfield-Jackson [Atlanta International] Airport accounts for $30 billion in revenue a year, local airports combined, such as Henry County’s, also make up about $30 billion in revenue a year,” Justice said.
County spokeswoman Julie Hoover-Ernst said the new runway will now allow the area to “handle more executive travel jets of potential business partners and encourage more jobs for plane repair.”
Georgia is currently ranked eighth in U.S. aerospace industry employment, according to the state’s economic department.
“The aviation industry in the state accounts for about $50 billion annually and the sky is the limit for Henry County,” Justice said.