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Posted: March 8, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Airport part of economic strategy

Runway expansion to be bid out in June

Covington city leaders have long viewed the Covington Municipal Airport as a key economic development opportunity and the Leadership Collaborative’s economic development strategy continued that trend.

 

The strategy calls for a “major employment concentration” to be built up around the airport. This “North Covington Development Center” already contains several major industrial employers, despite the lack of any branding or marketing by the city or county. This natural development can be enhanced by continued minor infrastructure improvements and concerted “oversight, management, and promotion” according to the strategy.

 

The strategy includes development ideas taken from an “airport Area Planning Charrette with members of the Leadership collaborative, key airport-area stakeholders, and a planning and design team from PBS&J.” Some of the ideas from the workshop include a mixed-use emphasis, with plans for both industrial, residential and commercial development, an improved transportation network in terms of both roads and sidewalks and greenway trails and again, a unified branding plan to better attract businesses.

 

However, all of this depends on the airport being able to promote and handle increased corporate jet traffic, especially as a “reliever” to the congestion at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

 The Airport as the First Step

Since 2006, Covington extended the airport’s runway and taxiway by 1,300 ft. to 5,500 ft., purchased 86 acres of land surrounding the airport for future development, built a fence around the airport and in February approved the creation of a new airport layout plan and the rehabilitation of the 4,200 ft. of older runway and taxiway.

 

While all of these improvements were made to increase the airport’s appeal in the present, the potential future impact was even more important. In particular, the new airport layout plan, which includes both current facilities and plans for future improvements, and the economic development strategy are important for showing the Georgia Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration that the city and county are organized and serious about the future development of the airport, City Manager Steve Horton said. This increases the potential for state and federal funding, which often pays for the majority of a project.

 

For example the upcoming runway and taxiway rehabilitation will cost almost $3 million, but the city is expected to pay less than $200,000. Similarly, even the airport layout plan itself will only cost Covington $2,625, while the state and federal government will pick up the remaining $102,375. The city expects to bid out the runway and taxiway rehabilitation project sometime in June, Horton said.

 

The recently released economic development strategy builds on the airport layout plan, because it discusses the commercial and industrial land around the airport as well as the airport improvements itself. The strategy discusses plans to improve road access around the airport, including a new entrance off of Ga. Highway 142., labeling the current road access “limited and somewhat convoluted.” This will not only benefit the airport itself, but it will improve the communications network, making the area more attractive to businesses.

 

Another key point of the strategy is to increase collaboration between the city, county and other authorities. The city has been funding most of the development of the airport, but a combined effort will enhance internal resources and strengthen the ability to apply for state and federal funding.

 

The strategy essentially called for more collaboration and more plans and strategies, but it’s clear that Newton County leaders expect the airport to play a big part in the county’s future.

   
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