Jerry Orr, Charlotte Douglas International's aviation director, has big plans for a defunct Bible college across from the airport: a business center designed to draw international companies to Charlotte.
We've been thinking about this for a long time, Orr said Friday at a regional transportation summit. There's no projected cost or timeline for when the proposed Charlotte World Trade Center would open, but Orr said work on the idea could begin in the next few years.
It is not very far down the road, said Orr. The aviation director, who has hinted he might retire in the coming year, said the center could be started during his tenure, but quipped: That depends on when I get fired.
Adding to the uncertainty over the timetable, a legislative proposal to transfer control of the airport from the city to an independent authority is close to passage. The bill already has been approved by the Senate, and the N.C. House is expected to consider the bill next month.
Orr's proposed business center would be at the site of the former East Coast Bible College, across Wilkinson Boulevard from the airport. The city now owns that land, which is part of the airport's campus, along with most of the former surrounding neighborhoods.
In Orr's plan, the Charlotte World Trade Center would offer international businesspeople the chance to rent offices near the airport.
They could meet with financiers to raise money, said Orr.
Businesspeople also would be offered help contracting with local manufacturers to produce their goods, and with shipping firms to help move their products by highway, rail or air.
Orr said the complex would demonstrate the importance of travel and international connectivity to the business community, whether it's riding a mule or flying your own airplane.
The complex would be the airport's latest venture into a non-aviation business.
In collaboration with the city, Norfolk Southern is building a new, 200-acre rail cargo yard between two of the airport's runways. That $90-million facility is expected to open next year.
In conjunction with the new rail yard, Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials are seeking to buy 370 acres south of the airport, and about 100 homes, for $35 million. The area eventually will be used for warehouses and other cargo support functions.
Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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