New airport terminal expected to boost local economy
POCAHONTAS – The new terminal project at the Pocahontas Municipal Airport is now in final stages of its total completion and expected to be open and ready for business by mid October.
Chairman of the airport commission, Danny Ellis, says the new facelift at the airport will provide a good “first impression” to visitors who fly into town, many of whom are top executives of large companies and businesses all over the country.
Ellis said a lot is happening with the project currently and that it’s “going quick.” The project is expected to cost nearly $700,000, with $469,000 being in the form of grant funds. He said painters are finishing up and that all of the doors on the inside of the building have been installed. The asphalt, he said, was about to laid for the parking and the ramp.
Workers are also finishing up the flooring inside the building which be composed of LVP in the grand entrance way with carpet installed in the conference room, offices, pilot’s lounge, and sleep room. Stained concrete will featured throughout the rest of the terminal. Behind the terminal building, which was built by Hostetler Steel Buildings out of Warm Springs, will be additional plane parking space.
When asked recently why the back of the building looks nicer than the front, Ellis said because that’s where the revenue is.
“Our revenue is not generated by [highway] 67, it’s generated by that runway,” Ellis noted. “So when they land, that’s what they’re going to see is the big windows, the observation deck that will look over all of that; But that’s where the revenue is. You know, the restaurants always have their nicest side, your best side, facing your customers. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Ellis said in constructing the new terminal they designed it with the future in mind and the needs of the airport as they expect it to grow as the economy does.
“We built something that 50 years from now can still be utilized,” he said. “And as a pilot myself and talking to other pilots, anytime a new terminal is built you have a boom in your local economy. Because that is the first thing that new businesses that come in to look at Pocahontas from all over the country [see]. They come to your airport and that’s the first impression they get of your city – is your airport terminal.”
Airport Manager Randy Gilless said regarding how a local airport can affect a community’s potential for economic growth, that a lot of influential business men and women fly into the Pocahontas Municipal Airport.
“You know, people of affluence are the ones that build factories and they’re the ones that invest in a community,” Gilless said. “Of course, they’re investing for themselves, but they’re investing in jobs and they are the ones taking the risks. You take somebody that’s going to build a major factory or something, they’re not going to drive here. They’re going to fly. And the first impression they get is when they walk off that runway.”
Ellis said the airport will be able to do that because it is the gateway to the city. He said that’s one of the main reasons for having a nicer, larger airport terminal. He said despite this year’s COVID-19 pandemic they have been surprisingly busy and even experienced growth. He notes fuel sales this year are flat compared to last year.
“That is amazing because whenever they first shut everything down last of March, it was a ghost town here,” explained Ellis. “I mean, we said ‘Oh, this going to be a long haul; We’re trying to do this terminal, we need the revenue.’ But fortunately, the airplanes still have to have their annual maintenance. The FAA requires these planes to be gone through, checked over once a year. And if it’s commercial, usually it’s every 100 hours. So they’ve not slowed down. They’ve been coming and buying fuel.”
Gilless said it’s a bonus being located on Highway 67. He noted many airports their size are located out of town but they have everything one might need such as the hotels, restaurants, convenient stores, and basic shopping establishments. There is even a BBQ restaurant – Redskin BBQ – on site at the airport, which both Gilless and Ellis note is very good.
“We are a ‘convenient store,’” said Gilless. “These planes are in the air right now – they’ve got to have a place to stop, and we can handle just about anything. We can handle anything general aviation. We get people who come in from all over the world and they’re staying at hotels, they’re eating at the restaurants, they’re buying fuel, they’re going over here to the quick store and buying snacks… I’ve had people fly in here and go to Walmart because they needed something they forgot.”
Ellis said that about a year ago they had six Diamond DA40s come in that were flying cross country from Texas. He said they called beforehand to see if they could stop at the airport. He said they needed fuel and that they stopped and filled all six of the aircraft at night after hours. Ellis he later received a call from the pilots who told him when they got the terminal open they were going to deviate their flight path from Texas to over Pocahontas so they come in again, as the airport took such good care of them.
Ellis said there are actually many businesses anxiously waiting for the new terminal to open and that they certainly expect to see a big jump in revenue before the end of the year.