Last updated: April 13. 2014 9:43AM - 588 Views
By - cwarner@civitasmedia.com

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UNION COUNTY — The Union County Airport could generate more revenue for and possibly help attract new business to the county by offering aircraft repair and inspection services according to Union County Airport and Stadium Director Ronnie Wade.

In an address to Union County Council earlier this week, Wade presented council with a plan to allow a “fixed-base operator” to set up shop at the airport and provide aircraft repair and maintenance services as well as conduct inspections of aircraft. Wade said that given the airport’s location, a fixed-base operator there could provide those services at rates that would make it attractive to the owners of aircraft traveling in the area. He said this could bring more traffic to the airport from larger communities in the Upstate and increase the revenues it generates.

“Our situation is we’re 60-65 miles away from Columbia, the same for Charlotte, and the same for Greenville,” Wade said. “Because of our location and overhead we can actually operate a cheaper repair service. What we will be doing is trying to recruit from these areas.”

Wade said the increased traffic would enable the airport to generate more revenue through fuel sales and hangar rent.

In addition to the increase in revenue, Wade said having a fixed-base operator at the airport could be an economic development resource for the county. He said it is possible that an aircraft owner who also owns their own business might, after using the fixed-base operator services at the airport, be impressed enough to look into business opportunities in Union County and set up shop here. This in turn would mean new investment, new jobs, and new tax revenue for the county.

“The Airport Commission feels like we’ll get some businesses, some individuals who may be an asset to the county and not just the airport,” Wade said.

Wade said he has already been in contact with a contractor who is interested in serving as a fixed-base operator at the airport. He told council that, initially, the contractor would work at the airport for one year under an incentive package that he’s putting together. The incentive package would include letting the contractor operate out of the airport’s maintenance hangar; insurance coverage; a lease agreement; an inventory of the airport; and a determination of the contractor’s responsibilities.

“We have a man who has expressed an interest in working as FBO,” Wade said. “He is licensed to make repairs and conduct inspections of aircraft.

“He’ll operate under that incentive package for one year,” he said. “We’re doing it for one year to determine whether this will be successful.”

Wade said that if at the end of that year the fixed-base operator service proves financially viable, then the program will continue.

“If it’s turning a profit then the FBO will become a tenant of the airport,” Wade said. “He will not be working for us, instead he’ll be an independent contractor. His insurance will be his responsibility and so would his expenses.”

Council gave Wade permission to proceed with developing the incentive package and then bring it back to them during the budget process.

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