One of the keys to economic development is to have good transportation. It is said that transportation ranks right up there with a good labor force and good educational resources. Of course there are other factors but we are blessed in all three of those areas as a community. Think with me for a few moments about our good position when it comes to transportation.
Our early history of transportation started with a stage coach stop at the Brick Store in the east part of our county. The Brick Store still stands where the Old Social Circle Road meets Highway 278. This was soon followed by the coming of the railroad.
In the 1820 and 1830’s there was even discussion of Covington being the place to not only have the Georgia Railway from the East and Augusta, but also a railway that would go north to Chattanooga. In 1837, it was decided to go further west for the junction and birth was given to what is now Atlanta. I am glad that decision was made every time I get stuck in Atlanta’s traffic. But that’s a column for another time.
The next phase of transportation came with the automobile and the development of the highway system. The development of Hwy. 278 played a major part in our community’s economic development. This was followed by the major changes brought in the 1950 and 60’s by the introduction of the Interstate Highway System. I-20 was another major step forward for our area’s development. We have six exits on I-20, which is more than any other county in Georgia east of DeKalb.
The last key to our strength in transportation resources is our airport, which sits north of the city of Covington. Covington Municipal Airport is comprised of more than 700 acres, with adjacent parcels available for development. Today there are about a thousand take offs and landings a month. This is expected to grow with a new terminal and expanded facilities.
Following World War II, a short, single runway, with no taxi-ways was the start of what would lead to the Covington Municipal Airport (CMA). CMA was officially opened in 1963, and through the years there has been growth, such as extending the length of the runway to 4,200 feet with a full taxi-way in the 1980s. The runway was extended again in 2006 to 5,500 feet. Each time the runway is lengthened it means that larger planes can use the airport.
Today CMA is able to handle regional jets — the size used by feeder airlines — if there is a need. There is some demand in the world of corporate jets for airports than can support the size planes that can handle up to 50 passengers.
The years 2009 and 2010 saw that next major steps in the growth of our airport.
In 2009, the commitment was made to begin a $3 million project to improve the airport. The runway and taxi-way were repaved and the fuel farms moved.
In 2010, Vincent Passariello was placed in charge CMA, and one of the first things he did was to rename the designation for the airport from the previous letters and numbers that were being used to the new designation, CVC. Only airports of certain size and capabilities can be assigned a three letter designation, such as ATL for Jackson-Hartsfield or PKD for DeKalb Peachtree Airport. This lets those in the industry know the level of service that we offer here in Covington.
Another big step taken recently was made in the growth of the Covington Municipal Airport. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle was in town to join with local officials in breaking ground for a new terminal this summer.
According to Passariello the new terminal will offer two conference rooms, one for a group of up to 60 people and another for smaller meetings of about a dozen people. Each conference room will feature the latest in technology for meetings.
There will also be a pilot’s lounge, vending area, an office for a rental car business and a lounge for those waiting for a plane to arrive or depart. Future plans call for a restaurant to be a part of the terminal.
One of the real advantages to the new terminal is the way it will be accessed. Instead of having to go through Oxford to get to the Airport, it will be accessible from Hwy. 142 within one mile of I-20. This will add to the convenience of those landing at CMA to reach Atlanta to do their business as well as encourage business along the I-20 corridor. Once the new entry is open, there will be a Department of Transportation sign on I-20 for the airport.
Future development will include more hangers to encourage more planes to be based in Covington. It is expected to encourage the growing economy of our area. Lt. Gov. Cagle said at the ground breaking for the new terminal, “Covington is getting it right. A lot of communities around the state are not.”
Mayor Ronnie Johnston, speaking at the same celebration, said, “The new state-of-the-art terminal will help solidify Covington as the number one place to do business in the Southeast.”
Have you ever thought how far we have come from the stage coach stopping at the Brick Store to our full service airport opening great new doors to the future?
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.