Airport Improvements A Big Plus For Economic Growth

An Instrument Landing System at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport is expected to make a difference in economic growth in Gadsden and Etowah County.

The system was dedicated Thursday in a ceremony at the airport.

The ILS is expected to increase air traffic because the electronic signal allows planes to land in all kinds of weather, said Fred Sington, director of the airport and chairman of the Gadsden Airport Authority.

The new system is a $2 million project that was funded through earmarks from Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, about five years ago, Sington said.

The system will allow aircraft to land when the ceiling is as low as 200 feet, he said.

This only enhances other improvements over the last few years. A corporate taxiway was built, and relighting of the whole runway using high intensity bulbs was completed, he said.

The improvements at the airport along with the recent opening of four lanes of Airport Road and about 500 to 700 additional acres brings a potential for between 1,500 and 2,000 new jobs, Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton said.

“We’re ready for some proposals for economic development,” Guyton said. “This is good not only for Gadsden, but for all of Etowah County and the surrounding municipalities.”

A Gadsden fire station was opened last year outside the gate at the airport.

“They can be here within two minutes, but hopefully we’ll never have to call them,” Sington said.

Sington said the improvements are expected to attract businesses and industries that use large jets for their own personnel or for customers and clients.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “We’re better armed to go out and find aviation-oriented businesses.”

He said those types of businesses and industries must be able to land in any type of weather and at night, and the improvements will make that possible.

Sington said the project is a culmination of many years of hard work by a lot of people.

“It’s been an idea that we needed ILS here since 1986, and we’ve been working on it,” he said. “It’s a critical factor in trying to attract businesses and industry.”

John Eagerton, chief of the aeronautics bureau of the Alabama Department of Transportation, has been working on the project in Gadsden and has worked on other projects around the state.

He said Gadsden is ideal terrain, and the airport already had many of the improvements needed for ILS.

“A lot of the first years usually are spent buying land and clearing trees,” he said. “But this was a good site and that wasn’t needed.”

By Lisa Rogers
Times Staff Writer