It is understood that airport runways lead to any place in the world, oftentimes in just one flight. They are a “connection to the world,” allowing businesses to grow and are a valuable asset to help attract businesses to our community. Beyond being “business-friendly” the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport provides considerable economic impact to our community.
When considering economic impact, there are three types evaluated: direct, indirect and induced impacts. Direct impact results from economic activities from tenants and other business users who have a direct involvement in the airport. Indirect impact results from economic activities that typically take place away from the airport infrastructure, but are still attributable to the airport. Induced impacts result from successive spending and are the multiplier effects of the direct and indirect impacts.
When we look at the total economic impact, the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport contributes over $42 million to the local community, with 350 direct jobs and 160 more either indirectly created or induced.
The airport also supports the generation of state and local taxes from tenants and businesses using the airport with an estimated $562,000 in business sales tax, $422,000 in local property tax, $376,000 in state corporate and personal tax and $18,000 in property tax on based aircraft.
To provide a little more content, let’s take a look at these areas of economic impact and the companies and programs that contribute success.
Direct Economic Impact
Companies which are part of the airport or the airport’s industrial park contribute to the direct economic impact of the airport. These companies include Arvin Meritor, Railroad Friction, Umicore and Scotland Aero Services.
This latter company has a very interesting history. John McRae and Randy Hoffman, born at the base hospital in 1948, own Scotland Aero Services and have operated the business since 1998. Starting a flight school on a card table in their airplane’s hangar, flying lessons attracted locals interested in learning to fly. They purchased Gulledge Aviation in January 2000. They still have the card table, tucked away to remind them how the business started.
Scotland Aero Services is known as a fixed base operator (FBO) which is analogous to an automotive services station, but for aircraft. In addition to fuel sales, the FBO rents hangar space to individuals who own personal airplanes, and operates two parachute drop zones for the United States Army Parachute Team and other military units needing parachute training. Minor repairs and inspections for airplanes are also available. Business aircraft also visit; these aircraft bring executives who visit their local businesses.
The week before the U.S. Open, Scotland Aero Services was contacted by a representative of the Goodyear Blimp which provided aerial coverage of the golf tournament. Goodyear Blimp fueled up the aircraft at Laurinburg-Maxton Airport during both the men and women’s tournaments.
Direct economic impact is heavily influenced by the infrastructure and capabilities of the airport. For example, to make our airport useful to visiting aircraft during poor weather, an instrument landing system is installed at Laurinburg-Maxton Airport. The main components of this system are localizer signal, glideslope signal, outer and middle makers and high intensity runway lights. A Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) system for visual glideslope guidance is also a component. With this system in place, radio equipment installed in aircraft allows pilots to orient themselves using the instrument landing system and descend down to our runway even when the visibility is poor. Without this level of sophisticated equipment we would have much less traffic.
Another system utilized in poor weather relies on global positioning satellites. Just as in your car, equipment in the aircraft can use the orbiting satellites to precisely communicate the location of an aircraft in flight. Instrument Landing systems predicated on this allow pilots to execute approaches to both Runway 5 and 23. By the way, the runway numbers indicate the heading a runway is oriented to a magnetic north simply by adding a zero to the number of the runway. For example, runway 5 is oriented to a magnetic heading of 50 degrees.
Each of these components are engaged in conjunction with the National Weather Service which monitors wind directions, wind speed, visibility, ceiling, temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure and precipitation from a point near the Glide Slope. The ASOS, Automated Surface Observation Station, property of National Weather Service is on continuously.
Indirect Economic Impact
Beyond the direct employees and tenants, there are a number of other companies that, thrive because of their relationship and/or location to the airport.
One such aviation-oriented business at our airport is Charlotte Aircraft. Operated by Whitey Hall, Charlotte Aircraft buys airliners and sells parts off the airplanes to airlines. At the end of this process, the airplanes are reduced to scrap and sold for aluminum recycling. Aircraft such as 747s, 727s, DC-10 and DC-9s are visible from perimeter roads in various stages of stripping of usable parts.
Gryphon Group, a relative newcomer to the airport, provides valuable life-saving training to our combat troops at the airport. Owned by Mike Vaden, this training company exposes soldiers to the “fog of war” in a realistic training environment so they will be ready when deployed to protect America from its enemies.
The Future is Now
In March 2012, the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport received $382,500 in funding from the N.C. Department of Transportation through its Airport Program. This grant provided funding for the taxiway design discussed in this article, a hangar design and an Airport Layout Plan (ALP) update. The ALP will create a planning document that provides the tools needed to guide the airport through proper development of the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport for the next 20-year planning period.
The economical value of a community airport is immeasurable. The airport contributes direct and indirect financial value and provides local businesses and executives the opportunity to build their business. Beyond the finances, the airport also provides our community yet another valuable asset to help businesses Target Laurinburg/Scotland County.
JoAnn Gentry is executive director of the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission.