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County buys land for new airport facilities
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The Newton County Industrial Development Authority has purchased 13 acres of land adjacent to the Covington Municipal Airport for the future development of airport facilities.

The 13.7 acres located on the southeast side of the airport were purchased from Nisshinbo Automotive Manufacturing Inc. at the end of July.

Attorney Frank Turner Jr., who handled the sale for the IDA, said the new acreage would connect the airport with the 72 acres of land owned by the IDA south of the airport.

Calling the airport a tremendous amenity to the county, Turner said the airport is unique to the eastern metropolitan Atlanta area because of its close proximity to Interstate-20 and the large amount of undeveloped land surrounding it.

"There's no other airport with this much land around it," Turner said. "We think it has a tremendous future for the economic development of the county."

In addition to connecting the airport with the 72 acres of IDA land, Turner said the second incentive to purchasing the land was that it would give the airport a second entry point from Ga. Highway 142.

Currently the airport can only be accessed by passing through the city of Oxford.

Turner said that a driveway leading to the Nisshinbo facilities on the purchased land would be converted into a public road with a small entry road leading off of it to the airport.

The second entryway to the airport will also allow fire trucks, stationed at the city of Covington's fire station on Alcovy Road to respond to an emergency at the airport all the faster said Turner.

"That was a large driver of this," Turner said.

The 13.7 acres were purchased for $50,000 an acre for a total price of $685,000. The land purchase was made with available IDA funds. No city or county tax dollars were used in the purchase Turner said.

"As we move forward with the development, we are hoping to do that with the partnership of the city of Covington," Turner said. "Clearly it was done with an eye towards helping the city with its development of the area."

Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey said he was excited by the prospect of developing the airport further with the IDA.

"I think it's going to be the best industrial development tool we'll have in the next few years," Ramsey said. "I think it's going to be a real great thing for the city and the county."

In a statement on the sale of the land, President and CEO of Nisshinbo Automotive Manufacturing Inc., Kazuhiro Iwata said he agreed to the sale because he felt that the expansion of the airport would be essential to the future growth and development of Covington's economy.

"Nisshinbo is very glad to contribute to the community as a corporate citizen," Iwata said.

Ramsey said that the IDA land would likely be developed to include more aircraft hangars for corporate jets.

"These corporate jets that these industries use, some of them are $20 million airplanes," Ramsey said. "If you can get those parked in the hangar that's a nice industry going. Airplanes have to be taxed on ad valoreum tax."

In addition Ramsey said he thought a more fully developed airport could aid in the Joint Development Authority's courtship of high-tech industries to the Stanton Springs Industrial Park.

"The city of Covington may end up buying the property from the IDA we just don't know yet," Ramsey said, adding that the IDA stepped in to purchase the 13 acres from Nisshinbo because they had available funds at the time and the city didn't.

Ramsey speculated that proceeds from the sale of Covington Cable by the city to Charter Communications could be used to develop the airport.

"I'm going to try to get the city to set aside some money to help do that," Ramsey said.

Turner said the IDA is currently working with a consultant to develop a conceptual site plan for future development of land around the airport.

"We're just going to have to see how the airport develops," Ramsey said. "I think we're going to see a lot of interest in people wanting to build hangars on the south side of the airport."