Sound investment in airport positions Washington for takeoff

Published 1:13 pm Saturday, April 30, 2022

My first good look at Washington was from the air. The views of the waterfront from a Cessna Citation set a deep hook that made reeling me in pretty easy after exploring the town from below.

I quickly came to recognize Washington as home and the airport that allowed our direct flight in as an important asset for a waterfront community glimmering with both charm and potential.

Several improvements to the airport have been completed since my touchdown more than ten years ago, including a new terminal building and runway upgrades.

This week, state and local officials held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of at least 11 new projects made possible by $20 million in funding from the North Carolina General Assembly.

The results will be “life-changing” according to Washington-Warren Airport manager Earl Malpass.

The projects, including improved taxiways, new hangar space, expanded jet service, precision landing systems and a future aerospace/marine industrial park, promise to expand the airport’s role as a local economic driver.

For many in our community, the airport represents the first — and sometimes only — life experience with air travel. Hundreds of local children experienced their first flight through the Wright Flight Program, which incentivizes elementary school students with plane rides for achieving academic goals.

“The investment in this airport frankly was a no brainer,” said N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore. “It’s a great resource and it’s something I think will pay dividends for decades and decades to come, not just for Beaufort County, but for this whole region.”

Moore noted the efforts of Rep. Keith Kidwell were paramount in securing the funding.

“Just so you don’t think that $20 million just falls from the sky and lands, you have to fight for every dollar you get in appropriation in the legislative process,” Moore said. “This guy (Kidwell) went to the bat for you in this region.”

Kidwell said he looked at the project as an opportunity to broaden the tax base, rather than increase the tax burden.

“Twenty million dollars when we put it all together and looked at the return on investment was cheap,” Kidwell said. “Because we are going to see a much bigger economic impact than that.”

Ashley Vansant is publisher of the Washington Daily News. He can be reached at publisher@thewashingtondailynews.com.