May 17, 2012
By NIKKI WILEY
The Glynn County Airport Commission says its two airports have a far-reaching economic impact in the Golden Isles, and it’s counting on voters remembering that when casting ballots July 31.
Among the decisions voters will make in the summer primaries is the fate of a regional 10-year 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for transportation projects, which will include airports.
Part of the penny tax that is generated through the Transportation Investment Act would fund upgrades at McKinnon St. Simons Airport.
If the act passes, a new terminal will be built.
“We’re trying to do a new terminal building at St. Simons that really is the hub of aviation activity on the island,” said Steve Brian, executive director of the Glynn County Airport Commission. “We think that the terminal is going to need to be significantly rehabilitated or a new one put up in its place.”
A study by the state Department of Transportation found that Georgia’s airports are responsible for more than 471,000 jobs and an economic impact totaling $62.6 billion statewide.
Together, the McKinnon and Brunswick Golden Isles airports posted an economic impact of $120.6 million in 2011 and provided 980 jobs, according to the airport commission.
The McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport produced a $20.8 million impact and 207 jobs in 2011.
That’s why maintaining the airport is a priority, Brian said.
“The airports definitely create an economic impact and there needs to be a consideration of job creation through aviation,” he said.
Glynn County Commissioner Tom Sublett was a member of the statewide Transportation Investment Act roundtable responsible for determining which projects will be funded through the tax.
The McKinnon terminal is one of 13 projects listed on the act that must be completed if it is approved by voters. Those 13 projects will be funded by 75 percent of the tax, while the other 25 percent will be given to local communities to use for discretionary projects.
“The St. Simons airport is the third busiest small airport in the state of Georgia, so we have to maintain all of our airports. There are no questions about it,” Sublett said.
While elected officials cannot make endorsements about the tax, Glynn County Commission Chairman Richard Strickland says the airports’ maintenance creates a good impression for visitors.
“The main reason that the new terminal was put on the list for the T-SPLOST is it’s the gateway to Glynn County for a lot of people that fly into this community that are potentially people that are going bring jobs and development and revenue,” Strickland said. “We just want to make sure when they step off that plane it gives them a lasting and very favorable impression of St. Simons and Glynn County.”
The Airport Commission had hoped to fund special projects, like a new terminal on St. Simons Island, with the sixth installment of the 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, but it was voted down in November.
Source: THE BRUNSWICK NEWS