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Mountain airport to expand

Updated: Monday, December 31 2012, 05:47 PM EST

Rutherford County Airport was built in 1972: boom times. It was meant to entice corporate jets and spur tourism and, up until the recession, it was doing well.

"Corporate air travel was at an all time high," said county Economic Development Executive Director Matt Blackwell.

But since then, the airport's traffic has slowed down. But now there's a bold plan in motion - being led by Airport Authority Chair Bob Howard - to expand.

"It's always been my philosophy that if the airport's on the grow, so is the county, and vice versa," says Howard.

The plan would double the airports hanger capacity, add a new terminal and open up the runway from the Northeast to allow for more traffic.

"We've got inquiries for hanger space," says Howard of a demand for space that's been building. "We have a couple of corporate people that come through here now that are really quite amazing, and they have discovered Rutherford County."

But when county money is already thin, is an airport that caters to relatively few a wise investment?

"I think the risk ... is minimal," says Blackwell. "Because a lot of the infrastructure costs associated with airport expansion comes from [Federal Aviation Association] grant funding."

The project will likely cost under one million dollars and a small portion of that will fall to taxpayers.

"Is it better to advertise when business is down, or up?," poses Howard. "You have to advertise when business is at a low ebb, because you have to generate that enthusiasm to generate that interest."

Mountain airport to expand

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