By Erin Smith
ELIZABETHTOWN — A study undertaken by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division confirmed what some town and county leaders already knew — their airports do help bolster their local economies.
“I suspect that most people pass by the airport on a daily basis and don’t quite suspect the economic impact it has,” said Elizabethtown Town Manager Eddie Madden of the Curtis L. Brown Jr. Field (informally known as the Elizabethtown Airport) in Elizabethtown.
The study, which was undertaken last year, looked at the state’s general aviation airports and commercial airports. According to the study, 108,850 jobs are supported by 72 publicly owned airports across the state. The study concluded that the economic impact to the state annually from these airports is $26 billion.
In Elizabethtown, the airport generates about $7.2 million annually and about $262,000 in state and local tax revenues, according to the study. The airport also provides a total of 30 jobs, according to the study.
“Jobs are created, our industries are here, not to mention the public safety aspect. The US Forest Service uses the airport for fire fighting, the military trains here, the Bladen County Sheriffs’ Office has their helicopter here, several different businesses have their aircraft housed here,” said Madden.
The Elizabethtown Industrial Park is also housed there as well as private aircraft. An air ambulance service uses the airport for a refueling stop as it travels up and down the East Coast, said Madden.
He added that there are plans for future development and expansion of the airport.
“Our hope is to eventually develop the property around the airport and extend the taxiway to the industrial park and directly recruit businesses and industries that need airport access as a function of their day-to-day operations,” said Madden. “We have developed the schematics of how that can be accomplished.”
Madden said that the town will work with Bladen’s Bloomin’ and the County Economic Development Commission if an industry with airport-related needs expresses an interest in locating here.
Madden added that there is plans to build more corporate-sized hangars at the airport.
“The N.C. Department of Commerce has placed an emphasis on aviation related business,” said Madden.
He thinks Elizabethtown is placed nicely to take advantage of that.
“Our proximity to the Global Trans Park, the construction of the Boeing plant in South Carolina and our proximity to Ft. Bragg. We are at the hub of a lot of (aviation-related) activity,” said Madden.
He hopes Elizabethtown can attract some spin-off companies to the airport or the industrial park. Madden said that the airport commission fundamentally changed its direction several years ago regarding how the airport was going to be utilized in the future.
“We are appreciative of our locally based air craft but we want to emphasize and build our aviation businesses,” said Madden. “The airport has a multi-million dollar impact today and we hope to build on that.”
Other airports in the region generating income for their respective towns and counties are: Henderson Field in Wallace, $6.4 million annually, $59,000 state and local taxes; Sampson County, $270,000 annually, $75,000 state and local taxes; Columbus County Municipal, $15.8 million annually, $653,000 state and local taxes; Lumberton Municipal, $6.1 million annually, $128,000 state and local taxes.