Georgia has plans to develop its rural areas, and the latest initiative is an investment in rural airports. Rural airports are important to business development, tourism, health care, and transportation. Quite a bit of bang for the buck.
Announced in Vidalia on Monday, the initiative includes small, rural airports scattered over the entire state, from Folkston in the southeast, to Cedartown in the northwest and from Cairo in the southwest to Toccoa in the northeast.
Gov. Sonny Perdue and members of the OneGeorgia Authority, an authority created to promote rural economic growth, formed “AirGeorgia,” with an initial budget of $15 million to upgrade and improve smaller airports.
“Air transportation is the preferred choice for business and industry decision makers in the 21st century,” Perdue said. “Our economic development efforts will benefit greatly from accessible rural airports throughout Georgia.”
Rural airports enhance tourism, connect Georgians to metro areas, provide a lifeline to emergency health services at larger hospitals and support the transportation needs of today’s business travelers, Perdue said.
“The goal of AirGeorgia is to extend rural airport runways to at least 5,000 feet, placing every Georgian within a 30-minute drive of an airport capable of serving 85 percent of the corporate aircraft flying today,” Perdue said.
Airport construction and expansion is horrendously expensive, and many small town airports are in pretty rough condition. One northwest Oklahoma community had to literally mow their airstrip because the pavement was so cracked, weeds and grass had taken over. Another town had to shorten their runway to meet new standards. State aviation agencies try to prioritize their budgets and still comply with FAA regulations. That is a recipe for continued rural airport decline.
This initiative is one that would benefit any state with significant rural areas.
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