Often I receive all sorts of cynical comments about the construction of the new airport in Panama City Beach. This is, in fact, one of my favorite topics to debate, I love hearing what everyone has to say and I love forming rebuttals. So this is the first of a series of posts that I want to walk down the line of some of the comments I get and open it all up for conversation in the comments below.
I’ll list out the cynical comments, then I’ll explain why they are so off base, you’ll see why the new airport has NOTHING to do with bringing “Aunt Pearl” home.
With all the stories of salvation for the beaches/region and controversies surrounding the environment, cost and name, of the airport, one would think that DIA was being recreated in the swamps of north Florida. Why didn’t they just put a set of wheels on the PC airport, call a house mover, place it on the site, have the road crew off pulled hwy 79 for a week to lay the runway or just collect oyster shells from all the “local” bars and have those crushed and put down like they once covered the roads, use Maison jars with candles in them for runway lights, take a used bill board sign and spray paint airport on it and call it a day. If I were flying in to visit Vernon or Wiewahitchka, as my regional destination, I would be completely satisfied with those amities. Get a grip, The airport is being built to generate tourist dollars not to get Aunt Pearl home.
The nature of this comment is simple. The reader is obviously against the location of the new airport. And, understandably so, right? Well, if they are used to driving only a short time from “in-town” then yes, I could see why they wouldn’t want it closer to “the beach.” But what about us beach-folks? It takes us forever to cross the bridge and weave through town to get to the airport, shouldn’t we get a turn?
Seriously though, the reasoning for the location of the airport, as I understand it, is more complex than someone throwing a dart at a map and saying “that’s were we’ll move it!” Almost 10 years ago, when the Airport Authority first started talking about moving the airport, a prospective location was decided based on required consideration for the airspace restrictions of the Tyndall and Eglin Air Force Bases. You see, above us in the sky is a complex map of pathways that are granted to our two Air Force Bases that allow them to perform normal and test operations as part of their training regimens. In the interest of national security, the Department of Defense can’t have commercial planes just coming and going where ever some political, citizen of airport director deems fit; there are military factors to consider.
The mapping didn’t leave many options for where a new airport could be located, not to mention that the single largest land owner in Bay County was St. Joe. So, it would only make sense that if they needed 4,000 acres to build an airport, who else are they going to ask? That’s right, I said “ask.” As in the Airport Authority asked St. Joe for the land, not the other way around. You see, this was all started by the airport authority, not St. Joe. Sure, St. Joe loves the idea, but it wasn’t theirs.
So, lets talk about tourist dollars. I don’t see why people don’t get this connection. This is really not all that complex. New airport equals higher capacity to bring people to our beaches. New AWESOME low-cost carrier agrees to come here and bring the people. TDC, St. Joe pledge money and Coastal Vision 3000 pledge resources to incentivize visitors to come here. Tourism explodes because our area is exposed to millions of people that had no idea we even existed. Millions more people come to our beaches each year that results in condos being rented AND sold, restaurants being filled, shops being shopped at, beach services being used, house keepers getting work, repair men fixing problems, carpet cleaners cleaning carpet, home builders get to go back to work trying to fill demand. . . you get the picture? I can’t name one segment of our TOURIST DRIVEN local economy that isn’t effected in a good way by more TOURISTS coming to our area.
The purpose of the new airport is obviously to bring in more tourist dollars, and has absolutely NOTHING to do with Aunt Pearl. If locals get to benefit from lower air fare prices, etc., that’s just icing on the cake.