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Mayor William E. Cooper and Staci Hayes, interim director of the City Engineering Department, were joined by a crowd of local leaders as well as airport managers from around the state to help celebrate the official opening of a brand new, 3,000-square-foot state of the art terminal building at the Enterprise Municipal Airport on March 11.
The new building gives a new look to the air travel "gateway" to the city.
The building, which replaced a 40-year-old structure, offers a larger, more accommodating facility for pilots and passengers who stop for a fuel layover or for a short business trip. The new terminal features a lovely lounge area, a conference room, a kitchen and the latest in airport operations technology. Mayor William E. Cooper and Interim Engineering Department Director Staci Hayes said the terminal is going to be a great asset to the City and will provide convenience and additional options for aviation travelers.
The Enterprise Chamber of Commerce hosted the ceremonial ribbon-cutting.
"We are here to celebrate the completion of this project which is a great addition,” said Enterprise Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Erin Grantham. “It brings a lot of new opportunities to the City of Progress.”
Funding for the terminal project, which was just less than $1 million, was done in part by a $250,000 state grant, with the rest funded by the City.
Other projects are also being planned to improve the airport, which officials said has been experiencing great growth over the past several years, especially in private general aviation traffic. Pilots and passengers fly into the airport for a multitude of reasons, including personal or family visits, short commercial business trips, air medical transportation, military business, aviation organization meetings, etc. In addition, the airport serves as a refueling stop for many, many aircraft en route to another destination.
"We are seeing lots of business-related traffic," Hayes said. "This new facility will allow business prospects to have the privacy that many of them want. They can fly in, have lunch catered to the airport, have a meeting in a state-of-the art conference room and then fly out."
The terminal has a nice pilot's lounge, kitchen and seating area with a television and a computer station for pilots or passengers who often have a layover ranging from a few minutes to a few hours or more. "Here, they will have a comfortable place to rest, relax and refresh," Hayes added.
"We are very proud of the continued growth of this airport," the Mayor said. "We have a great staff here and we've been fortunate to be able to make improvements on a continual basis during the past few years. This new terminal building is another step in the process."
Hayes said the City has been gradually making improvements in the proper order to seek, welcome and sustain growth. For example, hangars were refurbished and updated a few years ago and a new fueling system was installed. Last year, a thicker, upgraded general aviation apron was structured on one side of the new terminal to accommodate parking of the heavier aircraft. An asphalt overlay was also done to reinforce the area on the other side of the terminal where smaller planes such as Cessna's are parked and tied down. The project cost roughly $1 million but 90 percent was funded by an FAA grant. Another 5 percent was funded by the state and the remaining 5 percent by the city.
Some officials described the improvements as bringing the airport into the 21st Century, not just because of the physical improvements but the installation of the most updated airport operations technology.
The next improvement planned is a runway extension from about 5,100 feet to an FAA-approved 6,000 feet, so that even larger aircraft will have the ability to land here.
"That's how the process works," Hayes explained. First, the tarmac has to be made strong enough to hold the bigger planes, then the facility has to be able to accommodate the needs of the people who come here on those planes, and then we extend the runway to bring in even larger planes."
The improvements are designed to give the city more value and to bring in revenue.
Cooper said when any aircraft lands at the Enterprise airport, whether it's a small plane or a big jet, the pilots and passengers will likely eat here, shop here, buy fuel here and may stay here overnight. "That means financial gain for us, and that helps all of our citizens," Cooper said.
(Photos by Kay Kirkland)