Letter: Oak Ridge airport makes good sense April 10, 2012 William D. Orcutt, Vonore, Tenn.
I am replying to a recent letter that suggested the proposed general aviation airport in Oak Ridge would be a “waste of money.” I have no personal financial interest in this project, but as a longtime pilot and airport consultant, I would like to offer a different perspective on the airport’s potential for economic growth.
For virtually every similar airport project in the country, the most expensive factor has been the cost of the land. In this instance, the land for the new airport is being donated by the U.S. Department of Energy. This is not a waste of money, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build an airport immediately adjacent to the region’s largest industrial park.
Airports are gateways to their communities and to the businesses that use them. What the writer misses is the new airport’s ability to attract businesses to an area with tremendous growth potential. Already the largest employer in the area, DOE also produces a host of technologies that will be turned into new companies and manufacturing plants. The goal of the new airport is to provide a major incentive for new companies to locate near the talent that produced these technologies.
McGhee Tyson is a great airport but is too far from Oak Ridge to leverage the existing industrial park. Road congestion on Alcoa Highway and the Pellissippi Parkway will only increase in the future. Downtown Island Airport in Knoxville will never be able to extend its runway, which is far too short for mid-size corporate jets. The other regional airports the writer mentions are either too small or too far away from Oak Ridge for frequent business use.
A number of cities such as Cincinnati have added corporate airports as a successful part of their economic development strategy. Their ability to attract and support new business has been accelerated by the presence of a general aviation airport like the one proposed in Oak Ridge.
The writer is right that building airports where there is poor growth potential makes no sense. In this case, however, the growth potential in Oak Ridge is huge and would be enhanced by a new airport. I commend the Knoxville Airport Authority and the Department of Energy for recognizing that potential.
Source: KNOX NEWS