New Georgetown airport terminal to be unveiled: $2 million rebuild

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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.

Now, the airport officials are working on trimming trees and other obstructions around the landing strip and flight path, Funnye said.

The county and the airport commission have worked to put in new corporate hangars.

"We anticipate having larger aircraft," Funnye said. "We are working through our [fixed base officer] and putting together a marketing plan to market that facility. We have a waiting list of about four owners that are interested in coming to Georgetown."

Horry County has been working on airport upgrades for several years.

Since 2004, there have been more than $5.6 million in improvements to Horry County's airports including obstruction removal, fuel farm improvements, hangar re-roofing and land acquisition.

In 2009, Horry County plans to replace all airfield wiring and to acquire land at both Loris and Conway-Horry airports.

At Myrtle Beach International Airport, construction has started on the new 10,000-square-foot general aviation terminal. The new building is expected to be completed in October 2009. Other improvements include security system upgrades, airfield drainage improvements, new state-of-the-art aircraft firefighting equipment and a new 150-foot-wide taxiway, according to the Horry County Department of Airports' latest update. Contact ALIANA RAMOS at 443-2434.

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Georgetown County will be dedicating its new airport terminal at 11 a.m. Friday at 129 Airport Drive.

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