Tuesday the Airport Authority met and again discussed the new name for the new airport that is currently under construction in North Bay County. The Board met a few weeks back and decided upon the name Northwest Florida Panama City International Airport, much to the dismay of local tourism industry leaders and government officials. The justification of the previously picked new name by the board consisted of wanting to give Panama City credit for nurturing the new airport project along and ensure travelers to our area knew and understood that they were coming to Panama City.
But, I think that being sure that people know they are coming to Panama City is contradictory to the mission as a whole here.
The whole idea to bringing a low cost carrier and marketing our area as a region has nothing to do with Panama City, but rather the whole Panhandle area of Northwest Florida; Panama City is just one component in the entire machine.
Well, apparently we at PCBDaily aren’t the only ones that feel this way. Many in the community, including the Mayor of Panama City Beach, the Bay County Tourist Development Council, and various other officials had sounded off in response to the new name with formal letters, charters and the like. Mayor Gayle Oberst said in a letter to the board:
It was with regret that I learned the name that was selected for the newest airport in Florida. I sincerely hope that you will reconsider and choose a name that is truly regional in nature and scope.
This airport is a milestone for all of this area in many ways: the new industry that will grow, the increase in the tourism business, the first time this area including the surrounding counties has worked together to make the airport and the future to happen, and the overall increase in the quality of life for our residents.
I think we can safely say that there are so many other names including those listed in the top five selections under consideration that more represent the nature of what is happening here. What a wonderful opportunity we have and it is a shame not to take advantage of it. Northwest Florida has already been taken by another airport and Panama City denotes such a narrow scope (one city of many).
Once again I would request that you reconsider, think regional, and do what is best for Bay County and our regional partners.
Shortly thereafter, the Bay County Tourist Development Council assembled a resolution and submitted formerly to the Airport Authority Board their suggestion for a new name:
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, unanimously, by the Bay County Tourist Development Council and Board of Directors of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. that the Airport Authority is respectfully requested to reconsider the name of the new airport, and again consider naming the airport the “Northwest Florida International Airport.”
Well, it would seem everyone got their wish, with a little Airport Board twist squeezed right in the middle. The new name that was decided upon yesterday is Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. And, although at first, the name may seem silly, here me out why I love it.
I love that at the beginning of the name is Northwest Florida. This offers clarification as to where we are and what we are reaching for. At the heart of this whole dream is to put all our differences aside (between us and our neighbors to the west AND east of us) and regionalize our area. I firmly beleive that this new airport will serve Walton County just as much (if not more) as Bay County, and that’s a good thing. People will fly into this airport and travel to all over the panhandle, and they’ll be driving right through Panama City Beach. If we get that Highway 79 corridor dressed up before planes start landing, we’ll be sure to leave a stunning impression on them and leave them wondering, “maybe we should stay in PCB next time.”
The third word Beaches is great because it talked about what we are and what makes our area so special. We have THE BEACH. I know we all take that for grated – I know I do – but this is something that is very special to millions around the world. Growing up in Dallas TX, my parents always had a little soda bottle of some of our white sand sitting on their bathroom counter, reminding them of what they most look forward to – vacation! In fact, I think that bottle is still there! Millions come to our sand in the panhandle each year and run it through their fingers, dreaming of the small chance they can one day live closer to the coast. Yet, I live a quarter mile from this treasure and haven’t spent on the beach in months. When people fly into our new airport, they’ll think more than just going to Northwest Florida, they’ll think of going to THE BEACH. The Beach. “I love the beach,” they’ll say.
International is meaningless unless we actually have international flights coming into our area. But, the Airport Authority has been in talks with British Airways AND Virgin Atlantic, both of which are looking for new opportunity and bring flights regularly stateside. They see this as an opportunity to bring their travelers to a whole region and open up to them a part of the country that they’ve previously not had access to. It will take time for those relationships to work out, but I can assure you that with the capacity, we will uncover a huge pent-up demand for our area.
The new name isn’t exactly what everyone was hoping for, but I suspect that Northwest Florida International Airport really wasn’t plausible anyway.