Jan. 5--Pilots and visitors to the Georgetown County Airport will now be greeted by a $2 million welcome mat.
The county spent the money to rebuild and expand the airport's terminal in an effort to attract corporate companies and meet the needs of its existing clients.
The 8,500-square-foot, two-story building will be dedicated on Friday. The terminal will be named after former county administrator Thomas W. Edwards, who retired in 2008.
"I think primarily the airport terminal itself will help our local economy," said Public Services Director Ray Funnye. "It is going to give those in the aviation arena another look at Georgetown. We want to make sure the first impression is a good one. The amenities we have added are going to make the users of that facility much more comfortable."
The Georgetown improvements are among the work under way at regional airports across the Grand Strand, including the general aviation terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport and the Horry County-Conway and Loris facilities.
"We're trying to market the airport for industries," Funnye said of the Georgetown County improvements. "They can fly into the airport on corporate jets and hold their meetings there. We have a kitchen here, and they can have the meetings catered."
Three new conference rooms with wireless connections have been added.
On the second floor, a rest area for pilots has been outfitted with couches, recliners and televisions. The first floor has office space for the airport manager and another conference room. The building also will have a planning area for pilots, and the terminal has expanded the rental care space, maintenance area and fuel station, Funnye said.
There are about 47,500 aircraft operations per year out of the county's general aviation airport. There are 31 hangars leased to aircraft owners, according to the county's Web site.
Wayne Gregory, the county's director of economic development, said the new terminal will help his efforts to recruit new businesses.
"It is a tremendous advantage," Gregory said. "It just speaks volumes about the community and the quality of life and the overall climate."
Gregory points out that there are many upscale residential communities, such as Harmony Township, planned or under construction in the next few years near the airport. He said the airport also sees traffic from celebrities and CEOs from major companies.
"With this type of clientele, they like having a high-quality place to visit," Gregory said. "When you come into a community, it is a major part of the overall experience. It's important for us to do this now for future growth. It will help our tourism industry tremendously. It will make a very positive impression for guests and visitors."
Funnye said between the planning stages and securing funding, it has been a three-year process to get the new terminal completed.
The airport commission conducted a study three years ago looking at other area airports and found that several upgrades needed to be made. The Georgetown County Airport was built in 1957.
The county also has completed some other airport improvements.
The runway has been expanded from 5,000 feet to 6,000 feet in order to accommodate larger aircraft. In October, the county's new weather navigation system was installed. The Automated Weather Observing System, or AWOS III, is composed of sensors that measure, collect and broadcast weather data to help meteorologists, pilots and flight dispatchers prepare and monitor weather forecasts, plan flight routes and provide information for correct takeoffs and landings. AWOS units provide a minute-to-minute update to pilots by radio.
The Horry County Department of Airports has received a $340,251 grant to help pay for a study that will examine the need for a new regional airport.
The previous manager, Kathryn Sok, resigned last week, citing personal reasons, officials said.
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