Through investing more in infrastructure or inking new agreements, Kent and Sussex County officials hope that their respective county airports will take off as a new economic engine. In Georgetown, […]
Through investing more in infrastructure or inking new agreements, Kent and Sussex County officials hope that their respective county airports will take off as a new economic engine.In Georgetown, the Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown sees around 60 aircrafts from private flyers and corporations. It’s also a key hub for some unexpected partners: Walmart, Food Lion and other grocery stores looking to ship food south on the Delmarva Peninsula. Poultry companies like Mountaire also use it to ship products beyond Sussex County.
[caption id="attachment_210795" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] The Delaware Coastal Airport in Sussex County was built in the 1940's, but with years of work and millions of dollar's spent in improvements, an expanded runway may bring even larger planes. In turn, that could cause a boom in companies that support those aircrafts. | DBT PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSSEX COUNTY[/caption]
But Delaware Coastal Airport Manager Robert Bryant sees it as a balancing act between maintaining the airport’s use for the local community while marketing to larger businesses.“There’s a desire to start looking at marketing to more aviation-supporting tenants, but to do that we need to have the infrastructure to meet them,” Bryant told the Delaware Business Times. “We’re looking at a longer runway, more hangers and expanding the taxiway. But we’re not going to be able to do this alone.”Bryant pointed out that Sussex County had one advantage: space and shovel-ready sites. He served as the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport director until 2016, and attempted to court Aloft AeroArchitects to come to Salisbury, Md., but it became clear that the airport did not fit the bill.Aloft AeroArchitects moved to Georgetown in 1998 and now employs up to 215 employees.“We’d like to see business similar to Aloft come, support the aviation through maintenance and overhauling aircraft and generate jobs,” Bryant added. “But we need to have the infrastructure to meet that. One thing that [Delaware Coastal] has that we didn’t have in Salisbury is in-ground infrastructure, and that goes a long way to lure businesses.”The Delaware Coastal Airport was built in the 1940s, and Sussex County officials have been making multimillion-dollar investments for the last decade. Those improvements include new tie-down aprons, a new crosswind runway and extended main runway.The next improvement that would put the airport on the map is expanding the runway from 5,500 feet to 6,000 feet, granting larger aircraft the ability to fly into the airport and easily reach Aloft AeroArchitects in the nearby business park. But that will require $6 million to realign Park Avenue, so that trucks and cars will not be so close to planes attempting to land.With a larger runway able to draw larger planes, Sussex County officials also eye servicing small commercial planes, like a Gulfstream jet. The Schell Brothers have proposed building two 10,000-square-foot hangers to fit the bill for storage and maintenance.That proposal is currently being vetted by the Federal Aviation Administration before the county draws up a contract with the Schell brothers, who are prominent Sussex County homebuilders that see the airport as a way to further entice new residents.
[caption id="attachment_175463" align="alignright" width="300"] Linda Parkowski[/caption]
Meanwhile in central Delaware, Kent Economic Partnership Executive Director Linda Parkowski is still waiting on a new user agreement for the Civil Air Terminal, which sits on the northern edge of Dover Air Force Base (AFB).For the past two years, Kent County officials and other government agencies have been working on the details for the joint-use facility that is poised to revolutionize demand and business growth. The current agreement lasted for 25 years and limited civil use to 13,500 takeoffs and landings per year, while requiring a 72-hour notice for flights.The proposed new agreement, which is being worked on, would be for 50 years and is proposed to almost double Civil Air Terminal’s annual limit to 25,000 takeoffs and landings, while eliminating advance notice.The new agreement would also grant aircrafts access to Dover AFB’s runways, which at 12,900 and 9,600 feet — are among Delaware’s longest.“It would be a huge game-changer for the Civil Air Terminal and the potential use of the facility for 50 years,” Parkowski said.Right now, NASCAR events bring roughly 50 aircraft to the Civil Air Terminal for about a week once a year. But Parkowski believes that opening the airport to more use will be sure to attract more commercial and business flights, which in turn, would spur companies to the neighboring Kent County AeroPark and nearby areas.“Airports are proven demand generators, and we’re fortunate to have two in central Delaware,” Parkowski said. “Once we work through the agreement, we’re planning on a full-court press for marketing.”