After more than two years without representation, the St. Charles Parish Council made a new nomination to the aviation board just in time for the announcement of a massive $820 million expansion project at Louis Armstrong International Airport.
The construction will include a “state-of-the-art” 650,000-square-foot airport terminal with two concourses, 30 gates, a consolidated checkpoint and 2,000 parking spaces. Current plans are to begin construction later this year and finish sometime in 2018.
Funding for the project will come from various grants, airport revenues and bonds issued by the New Orleans Aviation Board.
Gary Smith Sr., who was nominated by the Parish Council for the aviation board but has not yet been appointed to represent St. Charles Parish, said the construction plan will be a great boost to the local economy.
Smith said because of the enormity of the project and its importance to the area, it is extremely timely for the seating of a new appointee to represent St. Charles Parish.
“It is very, very important to have a representative, whether it is me or whoever we choose, to oversee and represent in what is going on in terms of this project where they are spending in excess of $800 million because we are going to need our input,” he said. “Hopefully we are going to be able to increase tax revenues or any type of funds. I think it is really important that St. Charles Parish has a say in this.”
According to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the building of the new terminal will create numerous construction jobs and result in a $1.7 billion economic impact during the development phase.
“Their intentions are to have it finished by 2018. They are really pushing hard to get this done,” Smith said. “It is a beautiful, wonderful facility and it is going to employ 10,000 to 13,000 construction workers. It is going to be a heck of an economic impact right off the bat for all of the surrounding parishes here, which we all look forward to.”
Smith said the expansion project should provide jobs for St. Charles Parish residents.
“Hopefully St. Charles Parish is going to be part of that as we grow and have more employment from our own area there as far as law enforcement and other areas that are there,” he said. “It is a new and exciting time, and the economic boost is going to be great.”
The new terminal will be built north of the current terminal and should not disrupt airport operations while construction takes place. In addition to the construction at the airport, the New Orleans Aviation Board is anticipating revitalization in areas surrounding the airport, including along Airline Highway in St. Rose.
“They said several thousand (permanent jobs will be created) in the surrounding area. They are looking for a big impact, new hotels and everything else that is coming up,” Smith said.
Smith still has to undergo the appointment process by receiving a majority vote in front of the New Orleans City Council, as well as approval from Landrieu. He is hoping the process can be taken care of within the next 45 days.
“It is an exciting time and we need to be part of it. I am glad that we are taking up this resolution,” Smith said. “We definitely need somebody on the board and the parish needs a representative again.”