By: Meg Mirshak
Construction starts next month at Augusta Regional Airport on a road to nowhere that many hope will one day lead somewhere.
A half-mile divided highway is being built from Doug Barnard Parkway to a 200-acre vacant plot on the southeastern portion of the airport property. The road – General Perry Smith Parkway – is intended to jumpstart an industrial park for aviation-related industries.
Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Au¬thor¬ity, said many manufacturers want to be nearrunways. They can move goods from plant to airplane without using a truck or train.
“They pull the plane up to the plant, taxi on out and, boom, they’re gone,” Sprouse said.
The companies could make aircraft parts or just want the convenience of flying goods in and out quickly, he said.
Standard Aero, an aviation maintenance and repair company, has a facility on the grounds of Augusta Regional.
Road access to the development area is funded by a $7.6 million allotment of special purpose local option sales tax funds, said Clarence Fennell, the airport’s director of engineering and maintenance. The road, utilities and sewer will cost $4.1 million, and $3.5 million will be spent on drainage improvements.
Road construction is scheduled for completion April 1.Companies will need little site preparation to start building, Fennell said.
“The idea is to have access and utilities, and have the acreage available for very large industries with access to the runway,” he said.
The property could support several manufacturing facilities or warehouses, Fennell said. With a portion of road in place, extending theinfrastructure will be easier once companies come to the area.
Sprouse said the economic development authority has started marketing the property to site consultants in Chicago and Dallas that work with aviation industries in addition to a number of aircraft industry shows in Europe.
The project has been discussed for at least a year, Sprouse said. With road construction under way, he hopes the project stays at the top of the list for site consultants.