ROCK HILL, S.C. South Carolina officials are quietly asking about a proposed airport authority for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, but they’re largely staying on the sidelines, mindful that the state has no direct investment in the airport.
But the airport is a crucial component in economic development efforts, especially in York and Lancaster counties. They don’t want any changes that would harm those efforts.
Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill has talked with North Carolina lawmakers, voicing his concerns and asking what’s the best way for South Carolina to proceed.
Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols, a member of the Regional Conference of Mayors of the Central Carolinas, said York County would be best served with “a seat at the table” if an authority is created.
Currently, one South Carolina resident has a role in the airport’s operations. Steve Gedney, senior vice president of the Lancaster and Chester railroad, is one of two Charlotte Regional Partnership appointees to the airport’s advisory board. Gedney said the easiest way to keep a South Carolina voice on an airport board would be to give the Charlotte Regional Partnership a seat on a new board. The partnership then could amend its bylaws so that seat would be reserved for its South Carolina members, he said.
He said he has found Charlotte Aviation Director Jerry Orr to always be receptive to South Carolina concerns.
The proximity of the airport and the services it offers are critical in attracting new businesses, said Mark Faris and Keith Tunnell, the economic developers for York and Lancaster counties respectively. Direct flights to Europe have helped bring companies to York County, Faris said.
Gedney, Faris, Tunnell and Echols see no reason to make a change at the airport. The current system works fine, they said.
But if an airport authority is the choice, they want to make sure South Carolina has a voice in the discussions, either officially or unofficially.
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