With the help of N.C. Department of Transportation funding, hangar capacity at Johnston County Regional Airport looks to grow by about a quarter. The DOT recently included hangars and an apron expansion to its 10-year project plan, essentially the shortlist for road, rail, plane and bike projects in the state.
Adding about two dozen hangars and expanding the apron would total $3.6 million in DOT funds. Johnston County Airport Authority member John Bullock said the state’s plans for the county’s airport coincide with an already underway project adding two corporate hangars.
“We’re very fortunate in this county that our airport and industries are growing,” Bullock said. “There’s always a need for more space at the airport, and typically we have a waiting list.”
Bullock said that waiting list is currently around 20 planes long. He said the DOT project would satisfy that demand with at least 30 new T-hangars, the hangars generally used for general aviation. Right now, Bullock said, 125 planes are based out of the Johnston County Airport.
For daily commuters on heavily traveled Johnston roads, several million dollars of transportation money for the airport might seem to benefit only a small fraction of Johnston’s population. But Chris Johnson, the county’s director of economic development, said all of Johnston feels the effects of a thriving airport, mostly in expanded industries needing access other than Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
“The airport and the new terminal is absolutely phenomenal and a wonderful tool to have in Johnston County,” Johnson said. “It’s a tremendous asset.”
For two years now, Johnson’s economic-development office has been housed in the county’s airport terminal. He sees the company jets fly in, dropping names like Sheetz, Caterpillar and Iowa 80 as regulars coming through the Johnston airport, and Johnson said when he fields calls from prospective companies, they’re looking for proximity to an airport.
“Anything we can do to promote it is a positive,” Johnson said. “We’re pretty much at capacity now. The way I look at things, we have to get in front and bring corporate clients that can be housed here in Johnston County.”
Using rough figures, Johnson said simply parking a $30 million jet in Johnston County would add half a million dollars to the county’s tax coffers, essentially for a parking spot.
“That’s just an asset that’s housed here and can add to the tax base,” Johnson said.
Both Bullock and Johnson estimated the breakdown of general fliers and corporate ones at 60-40 in favor of the enthusiasts. But Johnson said a growing airport is one of the key ways to ensure Johnston continues to grow.
“As the region grows, we hope the airport will be a tremendous asset,” Johnson said.