There are a lot of good things happening at the Central Kentucky Regional Airport (formerly known as the Madison County Airport), many of which will continue to impact local economic growth, according to officials.
Newly re-appointed Madison County Airport Board members Chuck Conley and George Wyatt recently addressed city officials on the status of the airport, expressing appreciation for the role Berea and the county’s other two local governments have played in sustaining the facility and helping it grow.
“I can’t thank you enough for your support,” said Wyatt. “I travel to other conferences and other airports, talk to members of other airport boards, and they are envious of us here in Madison County because of the support we have from the three governments.”
In recent years, all three governments have given the airport $25,000 per year, though in 2017, the Berea City Council, Richmond City Commission, and Madison County Fiscal Court all pledged $130,000 for the board to complete the engineering and architecture plan for the proposed new air terminal.
Conley noted that support from cities including Berea has enabled the airport board to secure federal and state funding for new projects to make the facility more up-to-date and conducive to economic growth. Since 2000, the board has invested $11.5 million in airport improvements, with $5.4 million budgeted for projects in 2019-2020, including:
Three new T-hangars for $1.2 million;
Airport utility improvements (water and sewer) $1 million;
A new terminal building for $1.9 million (after state grants);
New airport lighting, $400,000;
New fencing, $500,000.
Ninety percent of the cost of those projects is supported with Federal Aviation Administration funding, as well as state and other funding sources, according to Conley, who noted the improvements have made an impacted.
Since the board embarked on major improvements beginning in 2010, the Eastern Kentucky University aviation program moved in and has grown from 26 students to over 150, with plans to expand that number of students to 400.
Airport officials estimate that since improvements, such as extending the airport runway and adding a parallel taxiway, in addition to EKU taking over as the operator of the airport, the facility has helped generate $5 million in direct economic impact over the last four years. Now the facility has 45 aircraft based at the airport, sells over 5,000 gallons of fuel per month, corporate flights are up to 20 per month, and cargo flights are beginning to come into the airport.
Once the terminal and other amenities are finished, the facility will house over 70 aircraft, have a restaurant, crew rest areas, a conference room, and other pilot services, creating an estimated 55 new jobs at the airport. The overall the economic impact of that growth could be between 35-40 million dollars, officials said.
Wyatt noted the completion of both the hangars and a new terminal will be like a makeover for Berea’s gateway to corporate America.
“Corporate executives don’t come to town on a Greyhound bus,” Wyatt said. “They come on corporate aircraft. Your airport is the front door to your community.”
Wyatt noted there’s great potential for an increasing amount of corporate traffic into Madison County, since the Central Kentucky Regional Airport is within a 30-minute drive to nine different industrial parks in the region, including Berea, Richmond South, Richmond North, Duncannon Development, Athens-Boonesboro, as well as industrial parks in Garrard, Rockcastle, Jackson and Estill counties.
Both Conley and Wyatt noted that while the airport board has depended on the three governments for financial support in the past, they believe hangar rental fees and other revenue streams will help them reach their ultimate goal, which is for the airport to become increasingly self- supporting.
“One of the ideas for the project spending we’re doing now is to make the airport more self-funding. That’s a component of these new projects going forward,” Conley said. “We’re trying to make ourselves self-funded so that you guys don’t have to give us money every year.”