The results of an independent feasibility study, performed by Ailevon Pacific, are back, and it was found there would be “sufficient demand” for commercial flights out of Upper Cumberland Regional Airport.
“I don’t want anyone to think that this is a sure thing,” Dean Selby, the UCRA manager, told the board, but also stated that the results were even stronger than he had anticipated. “We still have a lot of things to look at. This would be one of the largest economic things that has hit this area.”
Selby told the board the positive results of the study are just the first step and that he felt the next logical step would be to form a committee to investigate what comes next for the airport.
“I want to put together a team to see what it is going to cost, what grant opportunities are available, what do we need, and where do we proceed next,” he said, adding that he felt there needed to be four distinct groups represented in the team. “Legislative, someone who understands grants, ground service, and local aspects.”
Selby said he would like to see congressional representatives as well as local governments, local businesses, the Upper Cumberland Development District, airport representatives, and possibly even someone from another regional airport who has successfully brought commercial flights to their list of services become involved in the process.
“We didn’t just look at successful programs, we also looked at ones that failed so we can see what not to do,” he told the board when it was mentioned that the Smyrna airport had attempted something similar in the past but had failed and now has infrastructure that is not being utilized.
Selby said things like the use of existing terminals or the need for a new one and ground striping needs would be analyzed by the new committee as well as what funding opportunities would be available.
“This isn’t something that will be a few meetings and done. This is going to take a long time,” he warned, estimating that the overall project, if the airport board should determine that they wanted to move forward with adding commercial flights to their services, could take five to 10 years to implement.
The board agreed that each of the four mayors/county executives on the board - Sparta, Cookeville, White County, and Putnam County, along with Selby, would bring the names of their suggested appointees to the next airport board meeting, which is scheduled for June 14.
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