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Henry County Moves Forward with Airport Expansion Plans, but Under Local Control

In a bold move that indicates a slight change of direction for the airport Henry County purchased in 2011, the Henry County Board of Commissioners moved during a called meeting Wednesday night to terminate the contract it had with AvPORTS to manage the airport’s operations.

“Having local control was the driving force with the citizens and the Board in making this decision,” said District 2 Commissioner Brian Preston, who made the motion and in whose district the airport is located.  “I am hopeful we’ll build some sort of coalition of stakeholders with local voices to create a vision for what that success looks like,” said Commissioner Preston.

Though the change will require Henry County to reimburse AvPORTS nearly $25,000 for expenses it has incurred during the course of the contract period, the move indicates a growing confidence in the airport’s ability to “hold its own,” and bring in sufficient revenue to support operations.  Records show that the airport was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually while Clayton County owned it, but thanks to Henry County’s careful money management, in its first year of operations, it nearly broke even, having lost just over $16,000, and in the first six months of FY2013, it made nearly $40,000 through hangar leases and fuel sales.

But making money directly for the County through fuel sales and hangar leases was never the purpose of the airport acquisition.

“We’re not interested in making money selling fuel,” exclaimed District 4 Commissioner Reid Bowman during the meeting.  “We are interested in the jobs and the revenue that will be created by the buildings being built.”

These jobs are expected to come once expansion plans, particularly Phase I, are complete, and it is important to note that the termination of the AvPORTS contract is not slowing down construction progress.

Phase I, which involves lengthening the runway to 5,503 feet and widening it by 25 feet, is expected to be complete in August, just in time for the NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway over Labor Day weekend.
 
“We’re going to do Phase I,” confirmed Henry County Commission Chairman Tommy Smith.  “We’re going to try diligently to do Phase II because if we don’t complete it in five years, we’re going to have to pay the full $3.2 million for Phase 1, and if that is not an incentive to do Phase II, there aren’t enough incentives out there.”


Phase II involves land acquisition to relocate Mt. Pleasant Road in order to create a Runway Protection Zone, and the design and construction of the new roadway.

Both phases of the expansion are projected to cost $8.2 million, which is being funded largely by the Federal Aviation Administration and Georgia Department of Transportation. As a result, though it stands to gain enormously through increases in air traffic, fuel sales, hangar leases and taxes once both phases are complete, Henry County will pay just $419,894 for both phases of this much needed expansion.

But the real beneficiaries in all of these plans are the people of Henry County.  Hundreds of high-paying new jobs are expected to be created as the land surrounding the airport – totaling thousands of acres – begins to develop with airframe and avionics industries and other businesses who require nearby airports as part of their operations.

Corresponding with the Board’s desire to maintain local control of the facility, and ensure that the airport is identified as part of this burgeoning community, Commissioners also elected to rename the airport Henry County Airport and change the associated city to Hampton.  Henry County will also seek to reserve the local identifier of HMP in order to link it with the newly designated associated city, Hampton. 

“If we’re going to get serious about promoting Henry County, the name needs to be Henry County,” explained Chairman Smith.  “We ought to have our own identity.” 

For more information about the airport, please visit www.henrycounty-ga.org/airport.

 


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