Business has been good at the Moore County Airport, and officials believe it could be even better.
Airport Manager Ron Maness told county commissioners during a daylong work session Oct. 9 that the airport authority is “exploring avenues” to finance the construction of new hangars to accommodate the number of airplanes based there now as well as additional ones waiting in the wings. It would be the first hangar expansion in more than a decade.
“There is a huge demand,” Maness told the commissioners. “This is true at a lot of airports, but it’s particularly true here in Moore County. Along with that demand is a huge positive impact, which is a bonus for the taxpayers of Moore County.”
Maness said 105 aircraft are currently based at the airport, “which is huge,” though nine have to remain on the ramp and are exposed to the elements because there is no more room in the existing hangars.
He said 27 aircraft owners have paid non-refundable deposits to get on a waiting list to be in a hangar. He said the airport recently had one come available and it was filled in six hours.
Maness said the current revenue is about $32,000 a month, which amounts to $393,000 a year.
He said information provided by the county tax department showed that in 2017, property taxes on aircraft based at the airport amounted to more than $100,000.
He said the hangar expansion project would generate an additional $162,000 a year in revenue for the airport as well as additional property taxes for the county.
“So that is a huge benefit of having new hangars,” Maness said. “That is a lot of the motivation behind why we are trying to make this happen.”
The airport plans to add five executive hangars, which can accommodate larger jets, and 12 T-hangers for single-engine planes. He said the executive hangars could also be used to house two or three smaller airplanes as well.
Maness said the airport has estimated the new hangars will cost about $2 million, though he expects it might be more than that. He said that will require an additional $2.7 million in infrastructure improvements, including a taxiway.
State transportation funds will cover the entire cost of that work, with no local matching funds required, Mansss told the commissioners. He said the airport has already received $300,000 in grant funding through the state to do the design work on the improvements and prepare the project for bidding.
Maness said the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) has scheduled the project for funding in 2022, but the airport authority has asked that it be moved up to 2020.
That would ensure the work is completed ahead of the next U.S. Open in Pinehurst in 2024, which will be a busy time for the airport.
“We’re already getting ready for the U.S. Open,” he said.
Maness said the airport had completed about half the design work when it received word last month that DOT was putting a number of projects on hold because of funding shortages.
He said airport officials have reached out to state Sen. Tom McInnis, who represents Moore County and is chairman of the Senate appropriations committee for transportation, as well as others “to help plead our case.”
“We really hope they will give us the authority to go ahead and at least finish the design-bid phase and not lose that investment we have already made,” Maness said.
He said hanger projects are not eligible for grant funding, so the airport authority will borrow the money from a bank as it did for the previous one in 2009.
“We are exploring financing options as we speak,” he told the commissioners.
On another project, Maness said the airport recently committed $515,000 to develop plans for replacing all of the airport’s lights with new, high-performance, energy-efficient LED lighting.
The airport received a $483,000 state grant in July for the project, which 10 percent in matching funds. Maness said the overall project is estimated to cost $2.285 million. The airport will have to provide 10 percent in local matching funds.
The project will result in long-term savings on the cost of electricity, Maness said.
“Our Duke Energy bills are off the chart every month,” he said. “From a safety perspective, this will be huge for pilots in bad weather. From an environmental perspective, it will reduce electricity costs.”
The LED lights will also last longer than the industrial-grade bulbs now used.
Maness said the airport has been able to come up with $200,000 to provide local matching funds for state grants on these various projects.
“We are working really hard to make a profit so we don’t have to come to the taxpayers of Moore County,” he said.
Maness said the airport plays a vital role in the county’s economy. He cited an updated N.C. State study of the state’s airports last year showing that it contributed 305 local jobs and $17.33 million in direct economic benefits such as goods purchased and services consumed in 2017.
The analysis was conducted by the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at North Carolina State University. Among its findings, it shows airport customers and businesses paid $1.27 million in local taxes. In total, the combined direct and indirect benefits of the airport’s operations added $71 million in economic impact.
The Moore County Airport also operates aircraft maintenance services, a flight school with more than 50 students and a dozen aviation-related businesses. The airport handles about 6,000 take-offs and landings each year.
“I don’t think many of our citizens here are aware of the fact that the airport has a tremendous economic impact on Moore County and the surrounding area,” Maness said, noting that it is right in the middle of the busy fall golf season. “The airport is busy. We’re being productive. We are forward looking.
“We are just excited about being the gateway to the community. It is so important that we present a first-class, a world-class image to visitors from all over the world that land at our airport, meet our people and take advantage of all the wonderful things that are offered here in Moore County.”