John Secor pointed here and there on a blueprint of Clark Regional Airport. This will be expanded, he said. That can be added.
He went on. Secor’s hopes soar like does the UPS jet he pilots when not managing this place. “People don’t realize,” he said. “This is a gold mine for the community.”
Will skeptics convert? Will the apathetic care? This airport has its best-ever chance to stand out. After debate and more debate, backers just won enough money to add on to a runway and to upgrade aging amenities.
If the $20 million proves well-spent, more businesses literally will land and bring good jobs. “Time is money, they want to fly,” Tom Galligan, chairman of the airport authority and former Jeffersonville mayor, said.
Like Galligan, Secor insists an improved airport is necessary, not just nice. It will complement new Ohio River bridges and the spectacular advent of the River Ridge Commerce Center, they say. Not a home for big passenger planes, this airport nonetheless can benefit one and all, one way or another. Such is the pitch. “The airport is sleepy,” Secor said.
“Our goal is to wake it up.”
This public airport opened more than three decades ago on Clark County-owned land off U.S. 31. Its purpose and potential seemed up for grabs then, like now. Acreage, lots of it, still goes unused. Tenant rents do not come close to covering big-picture expenses. A plea or two to trust the appointed airport board with taxing power went nowhere.
Fairly few of us go to this airport. Its relevance was misunderstood, or doubted, before Galligan and Secor and others confronted this challenge. “I’m not a savior,” Secor said, his role everything from negotiating leases to cutting grass.
“I see myself as something of a dreamer.”
Secor, of Sellersburg, fell in love with flying as a little boy on a plane headed to a wedding. He has flown most of his 51 years, both professionally and for fun. Why? What better escape, he might ask right back. “The sense of freedom, of being on top of the world looking down,” he told me.
“From atop, our world looks perfect.”
Long before he joined the airport board, and still longer before he accepted the manager’s job, Secor flew in and out of Clark Regional Airport. “I realized something is not right,” he said. “It was not even beginning to reach its potential.”
Granted, people come to charter trips and to learn to fly. Planes are kept and repaired there. To believe today’s Clark Regional Airport a failure is harsh. To declare it truly a success, though, we must wait and see. “We’re open for business, our gates are wide open,” Secor said.
“It sounds easy, but it’s not.”
Phil McCauley sits on the boards both of River Ridge and of the Indiana Port Commission. Both recruit companies that well might expect an accommodating airport. A longer runway – the centerpiece of expansion – better can handle business planes. “It’s a step, a really, really nice step,” McCauley said of airport improvement. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Or as Galligan put it, “Economic development is important. Without this, we don’t have economic development.”
Several local governments, along with the Paul Ogle Foundation, agreed to partner with Uncle Sam and the state of Indiana to pay to finish improvements that began about a decade ago. A road and railroad tracks were relocated, for instance, and property was purchased.
Another change Galligan likes to tout is having Secor as airport manager. “It’s not good,” Galligan said. “It’s great.”
However promising, the airport’s ultimate impact is not guaranteed. Neither is Secor’s goal for still-other improvements, such as a multi-featured terminal to attract the public. “Before I leave, I want to see that be a reality,” he said.
In the meantime, Clark Regional Airport will keep trying to make friends and to influence people. For instance on Labor Day, September 5, it will host a festival to include airplane rides and a concert by the Louisville Crashers.
The free event is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is co-sponsored by Southeast Christian Church.
For more airport information, go online to flyjvy.com or call 812-246-7460.