State budget allocates $13.5 million for Washington airport upgrades

Published 2:45 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

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Washington-Warren Airport (OCW) is set to receive $13.5 million from the state budget passed by the General Assembly last week. The airport will officially get the money at the beginning of next year. 

According to the airport’s director, Earl Malpass, the one-time allocation will be used for infrastructure improvements, construction of a state of the art data center and a proposed industrial park at the airport. 

“This financial milestone underscores both the dedication of the local community and the airport’s steadfast commitment to fostering the aerospace industry’s growth and job creation within Beaufort County,” Malpass wrote in a press release.

The funding was secured with assistance from Representative Keith Kidwell who also helped the airport receive $20 million from the state budget in 2021. That funding was to support job creation, business development and private investments in Beaufort County, according to the City of Washington. 

Kidwell shared with the Daily News that the proposed industrial park is projected to bring in 600 additional jobs to the area in the next four to five years then another 600 jobs in about the same amount of time. 

He added that Hyde County Airport is also receiving $1.5 million to better assist Washington-Warren as it joins the BEYOND program. The BEYOND program is designed to safely integrate drones into the national airspace. It is overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation and administered by the Federal Aviation Administration. The drones are planned to fly from Beaufort County to Hyde County. Updates to Hyde County Airport will better accommodate the drones. 

With a proposed industrial park, upwards of 1,200 projected jobs and drone integration, Kidwell said Washington-Warren Airport is helping the community by working to get people interested in aviation and manufacturing jobs in the hopes they will work and continue to live in Beaufort County. To do this, they are partnering with Beaufort County Schools, Beaufort County Community College, East Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University. 

“This is a landmark moment,” said Roy Whichard, chairman of the Washington-Warren Airport Authority in a press release. “Such a substantial investment is a testament to our commitment to community progress and the prospects it brings.” 

An official announcement about the funding will take place on Saturday, Oct. 14 during the Air and Drone Technology Show at Washington-Warren Airport (200 Airport Rd., Washington). Representative Keith Kidwell will make a symbolic check presentation to the OCW Airport Authority.