Wilmington International Airport continues to be a catalyst for business in the region, but officials overseeing the fourth-largest airport in the state told county commissioners Monday that economic headwinds in the market continue to cause some turbulence.
Charles Kays, chairman of the New Hanover County Airport Authority, presented the board’s annual update Monday during the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Kays said increasing fuel prices and the consolidation of larger airlines was making it tough to market ILM. He added that airline capacity has also declined because of the large number of pilots retiring – making it harder to staff flights across the nation, including Wilmington.
Passenger counts continue to decline slightly at the airport.
According to March figures, 32,250 people boarded flights at the airport – down from 33,729 passengers in March 2012.
The airport has also lost flights.
In January 2012, American Airlines stopped its nonstop direct flights to Chicago. Officials earlier this year also announced that Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air pulled its non-stop service flights between ILM and Orlando, Fla.
But Kays said officials remained diligent in bringing new flights and revenue to the airport, which operates on a roughly $6.8 million budget.
To accommodate airport users, Kays said officials were looking to revive flights from ILM to Chicago, Orlando and the south Florida area.
U.S. Airways announced in March a second nonstop flight to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Delta Air Lines on April 8 also began a third nonstop flight to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport that could possibly last until October.
Overall, ILM’s overall economic impact exceeds $641 million, Kays said, adding that the airport impacts more than 3,400 jobs with an overall average payroll exceeding $184 million.
Kays said the airport was also improving its infrastructure with nearly $8.9 million in projects that include widening runways and adding LED lighting along taxiways.
The airport also continues to market its business park to potential companies and is currently looking to enter into an interlocal agreement with a developer to build a hotel to accommodate travelers and users of the new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic on the property.
In other business Monday, commissioners unanimously agreed to spend nearly $650,000 to help with two major repair projects at Cape Fear Community College. The college requested $600,000 to get rid of mold and mildew in the school’s McLeod Building and about $47,800 to replace hot water boilers in the same building, which is at 411 N. Front St.
The money will come from the county’s fund balance. The county’s fund balance is nearly $10.7 million, New Hanover county manager Chris Coudriet said during the meeting.
Mold and mildew is rampant throughout the ground floor of the McLeod Building, which was built in 1976, and repair work is needed to prevent it from spreading more in the building, according to a letter from CFCC president Ted Spring to Coudriet. Wind blowing from the river causes flames to roll out of the sides of the boilers, causing a libelous situation when technicians are working in the area, school officials said.
Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the North Carolina film industry, which has received scrutiny recently as part of tax reform discussion at the General Assembly and as focus of a bill filed last week to eliminate the refundable portion of the state’s film tax credit.
County commissioners also voted 4-1 to censure commissioner Brian Berger, with Berger voting against the measure. Commissioners also voted 3-2, with Berger and commissioner Jonathan Barfield voting against, to move forward with an amotion hearing to attempt to have Berger removed from office. The hearing is scheduled for May 20.