Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Batesville breaks ground for new airport hangars

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Batesville business is booming.

The city broke ground Wednesday for six new airport hangars to keep up with the growing demand.

"Our airport is very crucial," Mayor Rick Elumbaugh said. "We have a 6,000-foot runway here for economic development in our community. We have a lot of corporate jets that fly in daily. Our poultry industry utilizes it, Bad Boys, Mr. Mark Martin with his automobile dealership here. He flies in often."

Local business hope the hangars will also bring more business to the city.

"Pilots are always coming in and out of here," Josie's Restaurant employee Samantha Conley said. "It should bring us a lot more business."

Josie's has been a Batesville staple for nearly ten years. During that time, the staff has served their fair share of pilots. Whether they are flying in and out for business or making a pitstop to fill up their gas tank, they usually need to fill their stomachs, too.

"Everybody knows Josie's on the River," Conley said. "We get a lot of them out here. We're close to it [Batesville Regional Airport], we do sell alcohol here and our food is really good here."

Pilots are such a large part of Josie's regular clientele that employees cater specifically to them.

"We have to go up there [Batesville Regional Airport] quite a bit of times to pick them up and bring them down here so they can eat," Conley said. "Then we bring them back."

Another Batesville resident hopes the new hangars will have the same effect on his company.

"Every time we build hangars, we fill them up," Batesville Regional Airport Commissioner Kirk Warden said. "We manufacture precision optics so having an aircraft allows us to go and visit customers out of state, within a thousand-mile radius."

Warden said airport access makes business more efficient.

"Being in rural Arkansas, it's either an hour and a half down to Little Rock or we can fly directly out of here, which is really nice," Warden said. "It allows you to get from one side of the state to another in a couple hours."

The airport also makes business more personal.

"There's nothing that replaces having a face-to-face meeting with your customers so that's one great thing about this airport," Warden said.

The six new hangars will cost nearly $500,000. Two grants from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics will cover most of that.

The hangars should be fully functioning by the beginning of August.

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