Residents Hope Calhoun County Airport Grand Opening Will Lead To More Area Jobs
When Hurricane Michael walloped Calhoun County in 2018, it devastated a cornerstone of the community—the local agriculture industry. Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristy Terry says the storm cost that that industry millions of dollars.
“The local impact immediately following hurricane Michael was about $24 million just in what was on the ground as far as the timber. So long-term impact—I mean the multipliers on that vary but hundreds of millions of dollars without question,” Terry says.
And just as locals began getting things back to normal, Terry says COVID-19 struck, shutting businesses down. But now, there’s a bright spot. The Calhoun County Airport, whose terminal and hangars were decimated from the hurricane, will now have a grand opening on May 15 to showcase a new, state-of-the-art facility. Terry says the airport could make Calhoun County more competitive in attracting new jobs. She says the area is landlocked and lacks infrastructure like four-lane roads, immediate interstate access and rail lines.
“The airport is expanding so that we are able to host different kinds of aircraft and that sort of thing—it really opens us up to be competitive with some of the communities that have similar airports or those kind of capabilities so that’s one of the things we’re most excited about,” Terry says.
The airport is asking the Federal Aviation Administration for approval to extend its runway by about 1,500 feet. Airport Manager Scott Snyder says that will make it easier for small private jets and bigger airplanes to land on the runway.
Terry points to some of the new amenities the airport will have such as a lobby, conference room, office space, and pilot’s lounge as attractors to pilots.
“We look forward to being able to showcase the area as they come through,” Terry says.
The airport is also located on a campus that has four shovel-ready sites businesses can develop on. Snyder hopes entrepreneurs will come through and want to set up a manufacturing business on one of the sites.
“And those kind of jobs of course pay really well,” Snyder says.
There will also be a flight school and airplane restoration and repair business set up eventually within the airport. Snyder says it costs about $3 million to make repairs and upgrades to the airport. The Florida Department of Transportation put up $2 million to help.