Henry County Commissioners Rename Airport, Move Forward with Aviation Improvement Plans
Within four months of the purchase of the airport known as Tara Field, Henry County is moving forward with its plans to expand the runway and improve the airport facilities.
“This is just another step of progress,” explained County Manager Butch Sanders during Monday’s Commission meeting, when the Henry County Board of Commissioners approved contracts with two engineering firms to complete the numerous improvement projects planned over the next five years.
The primary firm selected for the project is LPA Group of Norcross, Georgia, while Croy Engineering of Marietta, Georgia will serve as secondary. A secondary firm was selected to assist should they be needed, given the large number of projects planned.
“We have an awful lot of work to do at our airport,” said Sanders. “I think there are benefits to having two firms under contract, and I think when you look at the future and the schedule we have, I believe that LPA and Croy are both very qualified to provide this service to us.”
The engineers will be focused initially on completing four tasks:
- A Capital Improvements Program Update (Due by 12-31 of each year)
- An Airport Layout Plan Update showing all newly acquired property
- A Runway Justification Study to ascertain proper length of runway
- A Current Environmental Assessment Update to cover runway extension to the north east
All of these items are laying the groundwork for the runway extension design and construction project, which is expected to be complete by 2014. Other projects to be completed in conjunction with the runway include installing an instrument landing system and security fencing around the entire perimeter of the airfield property. All of these projects will be funded almost entirely (97.5%) by GDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Once these improvements are made, there is an enormous opportunity for direct economic growth within the aerospace industry in Henry County, including the creation of high-paying jobs in airframe, mechanical system and avionics repair businesses – jobs with an average salary 43% higher than the state average.
In addition to bringing higher paying jobs to the county, the County also stands to benefit from increased ad valorem taxes for aircraft housed at the airport, as well as fuel sales and other aviation investments that will add to the local tax base.
In a related action during the same meeting, the Henry County Board of Commissioners also renamed the airport as Atlanta South Regional Airport. The new name connotes both its location in relation to Atlanta and the Commissioners’ vision for the airport’s future role in the region. The new name will need to be approved by GDOT and the FAA before it can be used officially.
“The purchase of the airport has always been about economic development. The goal is for our airport to become the preferred choice for aviation in the region,” explained Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth ‘B.J.’ Mathis. “The new name, Atlanta South Regional Airport, brands the airport to help us accomplish that goal, and together with the airport improvements, we believe it will put the county in a better position to attract corporations which require nearby airfields for their operations or executive travel.”
Henry County government is paying just $2.7 million of the $17.7 million price tag. To further reduce the burden on taxpayers, the payments have been spread out over three budget years, with the next payment of $1 million not due until September 2012, and the last payment of $403,403 being paid in September of 2013.
The balance of $15 million – or 85 percent of the purchase price – is being funded by the FAA. The purchase of 542 total acres of land includes the airport, taxiways and contiguous properties, a hangar and 217 acres of adjacent land that had been owned by the Clayton County Water Authority. Combined, the properties have been independently appraised for more than $25 million – more than nine times what Henry County paid for it.
The facility is expected to begin turning a profit in 2014, once the planned improvements are complete.
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