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Airport important to city’s economy

Editorial

Tucked into the farmland near the intersection of Whaleyville Boulevard and Carolina Road, the Suffolk Executive Airport is best known to many residents of the city as the site of Peanut Fest, Suffolk’s annual celebration of the little legume that put it on the map.

But the airport is far more important to the city than simply as a place to hold a fall festival.

For many companies that do business in or are considering locating in Suffolk, the airport is the place where corporate executives form their first and last impressions of the city. It’s the place where corporate aircraft arrive and depart when company officials are in town to check on their business interests or to determine whether Suffolk is the place they’d like to build their next office, manufacturing plant or distribution center.

From Target to the J.M. Smucker Co to BASF to the Department of Defense, corporate and government clients alike are in and out of the Suffolk airport on a schedule that might surprise anybody who thought that skydivers were the only ones getting airborne from the city’s airfield. In fact, the airport monitors an average of 30 to 35 takeoffs and landings a day. On days when Skydive Suffolk is booked, there can be many more.

Suffolk Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes calls it “Visitor Center South.” And like any visitor center, the airport must be a friendly and accommodating place where people can get a bite to eat, plan the rest of their trips and find helpful people eager to share information about a place that may be unfamiliar to them.

That’s why it’s so important for the city to continue its efforts to improve the airport and make it a welcoming environment for those who are visiting the city by air.

A project to complete a new, parallel taxiway, for instance, will add to the volume of traffic the airport can comfortably accommodate, and it will improve safety for pilots and their passengers.

A recent renovation to the terminal building has turned that facility into a comfortable place for travelers to wait for their transportation. And the promise of a potential vendor to re-open the restaurant there will provide yet another important piece of the puzzle.

Those are all good steps, and they should help the airport continue to be an important part of the city’s economic development efforts.