Airport celebrates business as usual
August 9, 2013
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  • Low country Airport Manager Tommy Rowe says there is no fanfare scheduled for later this month.

    At last Tuesday’s Colleton County Council meeting, council members passed a resolution designating Aug. 19 through Aug.23 as Aviation Week in Colleton County.

    “We have got nothing planned, it will be business as usual,” Rowe said.

    Business as usual is what was behind the proclamation passed by county council, a move designed to dovetail with a resolution passed by the state legislature designating that week as South Carolina Aviation Week.

    Both the state and local resolutions were approved in part to celebrate the economic development and potential of aviation.

    The last time the economic impact of the Lowcountry Regional Airport was measured was 2006. At that time the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Aeronautics calculated that the local general aviation airport, the largest of its kind in South Carolina, had a total economic impact of $4.7 million.

    The report estimated that “the airport generates $1.9 million in direct impact.” That number in part represents the payroll to employees, both employees of the airport and employees of businesses involved with the airport.

    The state estimated that the airport was responsible for producing 69 jobs in the community.

    The report also suggested that an estimated 8,950 visitors to the airport had an indirect economic impact totaling $900,000.

    The Department of Commerce, using methodology approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to calculate economic impact, arrived at the $4.7 million figure by employing a multiplier on the direct impact figure.

    The money paid locally, the economic impact study suggested, would stay local to be spent on goods and services by those who count on the airport for their income. The state placed the multiplier impact at $1.9 million.

    Rowe suggests that when the state’s Department of Commerce conducts its next economic impact study that $4.7 million figure will be left in the dust.

    “Two years ago we cracked the $1 million mark (in airport revenue),” Rowe said. In the fiscal year airport revenues were at nearly $1.2 million and “we expect it to increase again this year.”

    Fuel sales and hanger rentals provide the bulk of the airport’s revenue. Fuel sales are about double what they were five years ago.

    Rowe added that the airport in recent years has increased the amount of hanger space available at the airport. “We have 37 spaces now and they are all in use.”

    He added that the airport commission is in the midst of putting together a project that would see another hanger designed accommodate 10 airplanes built next spring.

    Airport officials are also in discussions with a charter company. The company is considering relocating its headquarters to Low country Regional Airport from “a high dollar area.”

    If the discussions bear fruit the airport would become the charter company’s headquarters. Its six to eight jet aircraft would be housed and maintained in Walterboro.

    Economically their moving here would make sense because of the “cheaper real estate and cheaper gas.”

    Those using the aircraft would not fly out of the Lowcountry Regional Airport but the charter company would purchase its jet fuel here. “That’s our gravy,” Rowe explained. “It would give us funds to do our next project.”

    And there is always another project waiting. The next project is waiting for the rains to cease and the ground to dry out.

    Sitting off to the side of the airport grounds are several hundred solar-powered lights awaiting installation.

    “Those reflectors are going down shortly,” Rowe said.

    The blue ones go in the taxi ways, the red and green ones on the runway ends,” Rowe said. The state government provided the solar powered lights free of charge.

    The solar powered lights are going on the runways and taxiways that are not lighted.

    Runway 17/35 does not have lights, Rowe said, “Standard lighting for a 5,700 foot runway would be $200,000 to $300,000.” Withy the state providing the solar powered light, “the cost is down to us putting them in.”

    When it comes to attracting more users to the airport “every little thing helps and builds on itself.,”