Engines roar and propellers whirl, marking yet another day at one of Statesville’s most lucrative operations.
Statesville Regional Airport, first established in 1935 under the private ownership of John White Moore and Fred Stane, continues to drive economic development in Iredell County.
Here are three reasons the airport is one of the area’s most important assets.
The roughly 450 acres of land filled with pads, hangars and a 7,000-foot taxiway houses $155 million worth of aircraft from various corporations and private owners.
In 2016, Iredell County received $821,961 in property taxes and the city received $716,782 from airport operations.
“If we’re not the largest tax base in the county, we’re close to it,” said Airport Manager John Ferguson.
Iredell has one of the highest percentages of corporate aircraft registrations of surrounding counties, with 43 percent of the 249 registered aircrafts being corporate. Only Charlotte-Douglas International and Charlotte-Monroe Executive airports have more aircrafts registered and a higher percentage of corporate registrations.
Corporations like Lowe’s Companies, Victory Air and several NASCAR racing teams use the airport, with Lowe’s housing aircraft worth nearly $90 million – more than any other company.
Ferguson said one reason corporations choose Statesville is the low tax rate compared to nine surrounding counties.
Per $100 of property value, the tax rate for Statesville and Iredell County totals 0.9875. In comparison, the combined tax rate of Mecklenburg County and Charlotte is 1.294, while Catawba County and Hickory totals 1.24.
For example, the owner of an airplane worth $1 million housed in Statesville would pay $9,875 in property taxes. That same airplane in Mecklenburg would cost $12,944 in property taxes, according to a market analysis completed for the airport.
The airport also provides 290 jobs and has a yearly economic impact of $40,680,000, Ferguson said.
When attracting potential development, Ferguson says first impressions are everything.
“We have a saying in the business. CEOs don’t come to town on a bus,” Ferguson said. “What are they going to notice when they land – nicely manicured shrubs or weeds growing in the asphalt cracks?”
The hard work of the Statesville Airport staff pays off, according to Justin Blair, a longtime pilot who charters private flights based out of Atlanta.
“It’s a great airport,” Blair said. “We’ve had a plane here off and on for six months. The service is top notch and the grounds are very well kept. For a smaller airport its one of the best I’ve been to.”
Since 1978, Statesville Flight Services has acted as the fixed based operator for the airport by providing fuel and rental services to airport customers.
Statesville Flying Service President Thomas Hazel has firsthand knowledge of the airport’s importance.
“One way you can see value in the airport is through the aircraft, which provides a tax base and revenue, but there’s a benefit way beyond that – untapped potential,” he said. “If your town is right next to an interstate but you don’t have an interchange, then you can’t access the interstate. So, the airport is like an interstate interchange. This is an access point. The tax base is a good thing but I wouldn’t say that’s the best thing. The evidence of the best thing about the airport is yet to come.”
The city and county recently made a joint $1.1 million purchase of 33 acres to expand the airport, which Ferguson said will help tap into that potential.
“We’re basically out of room to grow,” Ferguson said. “We’ll be able to add probably 25 more hangars once we develop that land. My job is to market the airport and to do that I first need something to market.”