The area now known as the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport has an important history for the Scotland County area of North Carolina. The Department of Defense purchased the land located between the city of Laurinburg and the town of Maxton to construct a military facility that would provide critical glider training to pilots for action in European theatre during World War II. The construction of this facility was completed at the end of October, 1942 and during the peak of construction, there were about 6,000 workers employed from across the area. The history of this land and its economic significance to our area is carried forward with the current mission of the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission.
After the end of World War II, the Department of Defense gave the airport and associated land to the city of Laurinburg and town of Maxton. Then in 1978, the NC General Assembly passed legislation that made the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission a recognized unit of local government in the State of North Carolina and we have continued to build upon its storied history and expand its vital role in economic development.
Currently, the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission’s industrial park is the largest industrial park in the southeastern region, comprising more than 4,000 acres of prime industrial sites with nearly 1,800 acres available to support continued industrial and commercial development, including a 400-acre certified industrial “mega site.” It is also a fully self-supporting park in that the infrastructure is in place to serve almost any tenant — from water and sewer, natural gas and fiber optic to an airport with one of the longest runways of any general aviation airport in the state. With its current tenants, the land at Laurinburg-Maxton Airport generates $1.48 million in state and local taxes and employs 510 people. The net result is an overall economic output of over $42.8 million (2012). While this current economic impact is impressive, we want to continue to improve and bring more industry, money and jobs to the area. To do this, we have made several key investments in our existing infrastructure.
The two most recent infrastructure projects included significant and much-needed improvements to our airport. In 2011, the rehabilitation of our main runway, 5-23, was completed at a total cost of $4.98 million. Grants from the NC Department of Transportation-Division of Aviation and the NC Golden LEAF Foundation funded approximately 92 percent of this project with the remaining 8 percent of the total cost being paid for from airport funds. The importance of this project cannot be over-stated. We were still using the original concrete runway that was constructed during World War II. Because of the deterioration of this concrete, the runway had been listed by the Division of Aviation as being in poor condition, one of the worst in the state. The rehabilitation of this runway also included upgrades in runway lighting and storm water controls, which have greatly improved the overall safety and appearance of the airport. This has resulted in an overall increase in airport traffic from private, commercial and even governmental aircraft.
The second project completed at the end of 2013 built upon the runway project by rehabilitating the taxiway and apron areas adjacent to Runway 5-23. This project had a total cost of $4.70 million, with grants from the NC Department of Transportation-Division of Aviation and the NC Rural Center funding 94 percent of these costs and airport funds covering the remaining 6 percent. The issues with the taxiway and apron were similar to those with the main runway, the aging and deterioration of the original concrete. The rehabilitation of these portions of the airport has only helped to improve the overall safety and condition of our facility.
Because our facility has one of the longest general aviation runways in the state, the ability for it to be used by larger aircraft exists, especially with these most recent improvements. It can help attract new business and industry to our area, especially those dependent on having an airport in close proximity. Airports, including general aviation airports, are a part of the engine that drives economic development. This is critical to our area and we feel that these recent investments are setting the stage for big things to come. The most recent win for this area was the announcement made on August 18, 2014 that Cascades Tissue Group had purchased the former WestPoint Stevens facilities near Wagram, NC to locate a new, state-of-art paper conversion plant. The Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission will supply water and wastewater service for this facility and secured funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation in the amount of $385,900 for this. Cascades Tissue will create a minimum of 68 new jobs and is making a local investment of over $62 million.
We appreciate the support and leadership we have received from our legislative delegation that has helped us make all of these improvements to the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport infrastructure. We feel that they have put us in a position to continue being a driving force for economic development within the region and to help companies Target Laurinburg/Scotland County.