Officials met last Tuesday to discuss future plans for the Macon County Airport and the proposed expansion of the runway. The Airport Authority meets monthly on every fourth Tuesday. The members gathered in anticipation of an update regarding the widening of runways to allow for use by larger aircraft.
As a result of a report compiled by the division of aviation, the Airport Authority continues in its bid to expand operations at the local airport. Project engineer Erik Rysdon of W.K. Dickson, a planning, design, and engineering consulting firm in Charlotte, was on hand at last week's meeting to discuss future plans revolving around the widening of the runways currently being used.
“We anticipate the project to run smoothly,” said Rysdon. “We're going to be able to complete this over the span of about 45 days, with only one week of the airport being completely closed. We're looking at being operational during the day and carrying out the construction at night besides during that one week.”
The week's worth of closure will occur when work on the surface is being conducted. Once the contract is secured, the public will be notified. According to the timeline laid out before the board, the bid opening will occur on July 30 and will be awarded anywhere from mid to late August.
“These people placing the bids on the project will be qualified according to the state,” said County Manager Jack Horton. “It won't just be somebody coming in with a dump truck and wheelbarrows. The group that gets the contract will be competent for the job.”
The next hurdle that the authority faces is the funding request that will have to be brought to the county commissioner's attention soon, possibly at the next meeting hosted by the commissioners on July 9.
“I think it is extremely important that we take the information with us that has been gathered by the state so we can show the commissioners just how important this airport is to Macon County's economy,” said board member Harold Corbin.
Members agreed with Corbin, citing various instances of travelers flying into Franklin and spending money on local services and goods.
“Just recently, I spoke with people who stay at the Old Edwards Inn often,” said chairman Milles Gregory. “They had no idea that they could fly straight into Macon County. There is going to be more and more people take advantage of this and they will spend money here and it's going to help everybody. Just last week we had representatives from Harrah's fly in. They had no idea they could fly to Franklin instead of Asheville. They were extremely happy."
A total of 72 airports operate in North Carolina — nine commercial airports and 63 airports that are used for general aviation like the one located here in Macon County. According to statistics gathered by the Department of Transportation's Division of Aviation general aviation airports contribute more than $2 billion to the state's economy annually. In Macon, the direct impact comes from about a $2.2 million contribution to the economy by firms that are directly engaged in the movement of people or goods through the airport.
Indirectly, the impacts of spending by airport-related firms on products and services by support businesses like office supply companies, property maintenance, etc, the county sees about $1.4 million. Finally, the local economy gets a boost of around $900,000 from induced impacts like spending as a result of payroll expenditures of employees of directly and indirectly related firms that produce successive spending.
“As North Carolina continues its investment into aviation infrastructure, more and more aerospace companies are calling North Carolina home with new manufacturing facilities,” said Richard Walls, DOT Director of Aviation.
The next Airport Authority meeting will take place on July 30 at the airport. This will also be the opening date for bids on the widening project.