Officials: Bigger Greene County airport will spur growth

Greene County — Lewis A. Jackson Airport officials say expansion is inevitable if the county wants to turn the general aviation airport into an “economic engine.”

The airport has a 4,500-foot runway and five rows of hangars that have reached their maximum capacity, according to an airport official.

“We have no way to accommodate any additional aircraft,” said Bill VonGuten, the Greene County Regional Airport Authority board president. “There’s no hangar space. The ramp is crowded. The thrust of what we’re trying to do is expand our hangar facilities and our ramp facilities. … We’re tyring to bring in more commercial activity to the airport which is a benefit to the county.”

If the county helps with financing, expansion plans would include increasing ramp space to accommodate an additional 20 aircraft and adding three 100-by-75 foot box hangars. The expansion could cost an estimated $2.5 million, according to figures discussed at Greene County Board of Commissioners work session.

“The thing to understand about those hangers is it’s not just a space to put a aircraft in,” Smith said. “But it’s a space to put the aircraft in and work on it while you’re hanging sensors on it and doing modifications to it while you test your product and you can do that in private.”

County commissioners will consider issuing bonds for the project after they receive an analysis from the county administrator on how the project would impact the county’s bond rating.

Airport officials say it’s a question of whether Greene County wants to become intimately involved in the growth of aerospace in the area.

“We’re looking at the influx of the UAV technology which Dayton is rapidly becoming the focal point,” VonGunten said. “We don’t expect to be flying UAVs out of Greene County, but we can certainly provide services for the technologies being developed to put in UAVs.”

The Greene County Regional Airport Board Authority owns and operates the airport. The seven-member board is appointed by the County commissioners for a term of three years.

Greene County is one of 84 counties in the state with a publicly-owned airport, according to Ohio Department of Transportation data. The airport provides 50 jobs, $2.3 million in payroll and $5.8 million in economic activity, according to the state transportation agency’s most recent estimates. The airport manager expects these estimates to increase if the airport expands.

“We’re tyring to make this an economic engine for the county,” VonGuten said. “You can’t do that with the current configuration.”

During the recent work session, airport officials asked commissioners which direction they wanted the airport to move in — remain a general aviation facility or attract commercial business?

“The money in aviation is and always has been corporate jets,” said Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser. “… What I would like to see is when the Beltway Bandits (Washington D.C. based private companies) come in, they have a nice place to land.”

Airport officials say if they don’t expand, business at the airport will remain stagnate because of the lack of space.

“We lose business to other airports 30 miles away,” Don Smith, the airport manager, said.

Six moths ago a Beavercreek-based business that builds sensors used on airplanes took their business to another airport because there was no room for them at Lewis A. Jackson Airport, Smith said.

“We had no room for that business so they had to take their airplane business 30 minutes away down to Springboro when they’re five minutes away from us,” Smith said. “So we would continue to not be able to service commercial customers in the Beavercreek area if we do nothing.”

Smith told county commissioners the airport hopes to attract businesses that would use the facility to test multi-million dollar sensors on manned aircraft before installing them on drones.

“If we don’t build it, other airports in the area are going to build it and we will continue to lose business to them,” Smith said.

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