We recently reported about an improvement project ready to launch in the coming months at Richmond County Airport, south of Rockingham.
The runway at the country airport is going to be extended by 1,000 feet, making it safer. Total projected cost of this work is about $700,000.
Many of the county’s officials are thrilled and note that 90 percent of the project cost will be covered by grant money, with the county government kicking in about 10 percent.
Under most circumstances, this would be considered good news. But you’d never know it from some of the reader comments we’ve been getting on our website, attached to this story and another current event, the fate of the county animal shelter.
“Please explain to me why we need a longer taxiway at an airport that has so little traffic?,” one reader commented. “We do not have enough industry in the county to support the need or potential need … Our teachers need the money for our schools, and there are so many other worthy causes that need the money so much more! …”
It is unfortunate that the debate over whether the county even needs an airport, or whether it should spend any money on its upkeep or improvements, has been muddied by calls for closing the airstrip in favor of funneling cash into shoring up the animal shelter.
A county that takes good care of its furry friends is indeed a compliment to the community members who help make that happen, but this isn’t an “either or” situation.
Yes, the shelter needs fresh funding. Can the money for the extended runway go to the dogs and cats instead? No.
The bulk of that $700,000 comes from federal and state monies earmarked for airports. Our county, if it chooses to, can spend that cash on the airport. It cannot spend it elsewhere. And it makes all the sense in the world for the county to grab the grant money, shout “thank you,” and get those improvements in stone while they can.
That little airport may not see a lot of traffic week in and week out, but it is a gem for this community — one very important tool in the quest for new business and industry.
If Richmond County ever hopes to attract substantial new industry, that airport will be key.
A manufacturer looking for a viable workforce and business-friendly location to set up a new facility will want that airport.
It’s that simple. If Richmond County abandons its airport and finds itself one day competing against another area for a new industry, and that other area has a viable airport, Richmond County will lose out.
Business and industry officials — the movers and shakers who create jobs and sign paychecks — need to have quick and easy access to their manufacturing facilities, for their executives, suppliers and potential clients.
The airport project is an investment in our future.