A $29-million investment in the just adopted State Budget will allow larger and heavier aircraft at the Albert J. Ellis Airport. The project could promote new business, jobs and other economic development for the County. The announcement of the record setting grant was made in a briefing at the Ellis Airport Monday morning.
Senator Michael Lazzara and Representative Phil Shepard worked to secure the largest grant ever for Onslow County’s airport. Specifically, it will lengthen the runway, expand the taxiway and realign NC 111 in the area of the airport.
Airport Director Chris White is calling the project transformational in that it will allow the 50-year-old airport to attract industry to locate at the site as well as to attract different aircraft use.
The project has been planned for more than twenty years and will increase the potential range and size of aircraft that use Albert Ellis Airport. Importantly, it will lift weight restrictions that have made the airport unusable by some aircraft, especially freight aircraft that support the overnight and rapid delivery systems that are popular now. The last extension of the runway was in 1975.
“This runway extension has the potential to change Onslow County in many ways by helping to attract more flights and industry,” said Onslow County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jack Bright. “It is intended to help create jobs, enhance safety and make OAJ more efficient for users.”
The project has been under environmental and FAA review for the last two years and design is expected to begin early next year. White believes it will inevitably lead to more grants for improving roads connecting the airport and for developing options for additional operations at the airport.
In a morning announcement at the airport, Vice Chairman Tim Foster gave appreciation to Senator Michael Lazzara for his work to get the project included in the budget. Representative Phil Shepard is the chairman of the House Transportation Appropriations committee and worked to secure the funding for the work.
The grant is the largest ever for the County airport which has an economic impact of $565-million dollars a year and has 3,460 jobs connected to the enterprise. It has a tax generating benefit of about $19-million in state and local taxes.
The airport has an annual passenger count of more than 326-thousand a year. Pitt-Greenville has about 109-thousand and New Bern has about 225-thousand a year.