Two airports in Brunswick County were recently approved for state grants as part of more than $9.5 million in state funding awarded to various airfield improvement projects, according to a news release.
The Cape Fear Regional Jetport in Oak Island and the Odell Williamson Municipal Airport in Ocean Isle Beach were two of 10 North Carolina airports to have funding approved by the N.C. Board of Transportation.
At Cape Fear Regional Jetport, $4.3 million in state funds will support phase II of the west apron expansion.
The bidding process for the apron expansion is currently ongoing, Howie Franklin, director of Cape Fear Regional Jetport, said Friday.
"The big issue is that we just can't park the airplanes," Franklin said. "And these people want to get to the new terminal because we have courtesy cars and bathrooms and things of that nature.
"And the other thing is, we're just getting started here ... with the growth."
The airport serves private aircraft and public aircraft, he said.
"The airport is a public service first: we serve the Coast Guard; we serve the military; we serve law enforcement and air evacuations," Franklin said. "So we are a public service first and an economic engine second."
The Odell Williamson Municipal Airport also has earmarked in the recent round of grants $54,000 in state matching funds to acquire land for the construction of a parallel taxiway.
The state grants are for safety and airfield improvement projects, stated the release.
The more than $9.5 million in state funding has been awarded for these various projects around the state to "help the airports increase capacity, attract new jobs and businesses to their communities, and improve safety for pilots and passengers," officials said in the release.
Aviation is a very important piece of the transportation puzzle, said Frank Williams, chair of the Cape Fear Rural Transportation Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee.
"When most people think aviation, they think of a large airport," Williams said. "But if you want to have business leaders and CEOs and those type of people come to the area, these smaller airports are critical."
According to the state's latest aviation economic impact report, the Cape Fear Regional Jetport had an impact of nearly 2,000 jobs, $87.4 million in personal income, $11 million in state and local taxes and an economic output of more than $280 million.
The report also shows the Odell Williamson Municipal has an impact of 75 jobs, more than $2.7 million in personal income, $360,000 in state and local taxes and a $7.1 million economic output.
"The more ways we have to get people and goods in and out of the area the better it's going to be," Williams said. "And if we want to grow our economy, these smaller airports fill a role that might not be filled at an ILM."