Study: Macon County Airport’s economic impact totals $18M

Posted by on Feb 7, 2019 in news, Uncategorized

Press Release:

Author(s): Ryan Hanchett news@thefranklinpress.com Date: January 18, 2019 Section: News

It can be hard to measure the success of a business.
When that business has both a governmental and private ownership element, the waters can become even murkier.
With that in mind, the North Carolina Department of Transportation set out to quantify what airports mean to the communities they serve. The results were released earlier this month as part of the North Carolina State of Aviation Report.

“Our network of 72 public airports, and the aviation and aerospace assets that rely on them, help move our economy forward by creating jobs, supporting business growth and connecting people and companies to markets around the globe,” said Bobby Walston, director of NCDOT’s Division of Aviation.

North Carolina’s public airports lease space to more than 3,300 private aircraft that generate more than $19 million in tax revenues for their communities each year. The owner of a $1.5 million aircraft based at a North Carolina airport pays local property taxes equivalent to those paid by owners of 10 homes valued at $150,000 each.

The report concluded that airports contribute $52 billion annually to the state’s economy and support more than 300,000 jobs. Of course, major international airports in Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro account for a majority of the economic impact, but the report noted that an uptick in general aviation has led to economic progress at more rural facilities.

In Macon County, the airport produces $18 million in economic impact and contributes nearly $700,000 annually in state and county tax revenue.

“Over the years our airport has come a long way thanks to a lot of people who have been committed to its success,” Macon County Airport Authority Chairman Miles Gregory said. “We were fortunate years ago to get connected with men like Parks Preston at the FAA, and he believed in our airport and had the tools to make its growth possible.”

Macon County’s current airport facility in the Iotla Valley features a 5,000-foot runway and a full-service terminal building. There are plans in place to extend the runway to 6,000 feet in the future to accommodate additional jet traffic.

The state of aviation report notes that the Macon County airport supports 125 jobs.

“Obviously the airport doesn’t have that many employees, but when you look at jobs supported you can look directly at Highlands and some of the businesses up there whose patrons use the airport,” Gregory said. “We see it all the time where folks fly into the airport for the week and head up the mountain. Those visitors spend money at businesses, which creates jobs and produces business revenue and tax revenue.”

A change in airport operator has led to several recent improvements at the facility that Gregory hopes will sustain the positive momentum. Macon Air, a subsidiary of Drake Enterprises, took over the operations of the airport on Oct. 1, 2018. Since that time Macon Air has added a pair of fuel trucks to allow for single-point fueling.

“The new operator is committed to the future of the airport and they’ve done a great job so far,” Gregory said. “It’s important that the operator and the authority continue to pull in the same direction as we look at possible future projects that impact the facility.”