The New King of South Has Been Crowned

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Early Tuesday morning, a milestone was reached at the New Panama City Beach – Bay County International Airport Site. The capping of the control, a significant accomplishment in airport construction, was completed with nary a hiccup.

Dozens of workers, all using video camera cell phones to capture the event, lined the fenced perimeter to take a marked occasion in a very long process. Two huge cranes on either side of the 50 ton metal frame slowly raised the cab the 150ft to the top of the control tower.

It hovered under perfect blue skies before being bolted down atop the tower to be glassed in at a later date. While the whole event lasted a half hour or so, it was simultaneously the apogee to years of work and the crowning of Northwest Florida new king. If all goes according to plan, the new airport will be one of the signature southern airports, providing vacationers easy access to the “World’s Most Beautiful Beach” as well as low cost flights for residents. Seeing the control tower in place gave the airport a sense of tangibility, an air of “this whole airport-and-panama-city-beach-transformation thing is really going to happen, huh?” The ceremony was quite a thing to behold.

I asked Jeff Dealy, KBR’s program manager for the project, how many times in my life would I get to experience an event like the capping of the control tower. He smiled and said, “Once.”

5 Ways PCB's New Airport Will Help Your Business

As Panama City Beach prepares for a new airport slated to be taking in flights by this time next year, many question how the airport is really going to benefit their businesses. Well, here is your answer…actually, five of them.

1. More People = More Money

This is the easiest reason. Obviously, with the completion of the new airport, Panama City Beach will be able to reach new markets it could not before. In addition to opening direct travel channels that previously did not exist, current feeder markets will be more encouraged to fly into Panama City Beach because of the significantly cheaper rates than PFN. The lure of the one-hour flight will just be too much for markets like Atlanta and Birmingham exposing Panama City Beach to the “disposable income” demographic. Panama City Beach will see a significant increase in the amount of travelers, in turn, an increase in revenue for just about everyone.

2. Real Estate Value

Panama City Beach has already seen considerable growth in developments over the last 5 years. The new airport is expected to both accelerate that growth as well as open the gates to investors. There have been all sorts of theories on whether PCB will see a “boom” in real estate growth or a “gradual incline” but regardless, businesses will benefit. Investors will be attracted by the new airport’s effect on Panama City Beach inexorably boosting economic return on private capital. When the overall value increases so too will things like, say…I dunno…room rates? Cha-Ching.

3. Re-Introduction, “Hello, New York, My Name Is…”

The new airport presents a unique opportunity very difficult to come by for any tourist destination. Panama City Beach has been labeled as the “Redneck Riviera” and most people who’ve visited the city have visited it previously and are knowledgeable about the resorts and hotels and attractions. The effect the new airport will have on the destination’s ability to re-invent itself will be invaluable. Equally, every accommodation and attraction throughout the beach will be presented the same opportunity. You get to retell your story however you like. If you haven’t started getting ready for advertising and marketing, now is the time, because you’ll get one shot to show a new group of people that you’re worth spending money.

4. Opportunity For A New Season

This hasn’t been talked about much, but should be considered. Panama City Beach’s biggest encumbrance is its seasonal activity. All over the beach establishments close for three months or more out of the year to accommodate the severe lag in business. With the new airport completed coupled with TDC/CVB efforts to create off-season tourist-attracting events, what used to be a seasonal-lag may become a goldmine. Imagine if the business you do during peak season continues at nearly the same rate all the way to December? With the ability to create flight package deals, this may be the next step in PCB evolution.

5. Morale – The Domino Effect

Initially, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but consider the overall economic impact the new airport will have on the beach. More jobs, more money and better pay makes for happy people. What we’ve seen over the last few years, the increase in the developments, the CRA projects and now the negotiations in adopting form-based design regulations are direct results of the new airport. What you will have in the coming years is a more beautiful and happier city than ever before. I don’t know about you, but that may be the most valuable consequence of all.

These are our 5, do you have more?

New Airport Addresses Stormwater Issue

Tannehill Pledges Accountability for Deficiencies, Stronger Oversight

(Panama City – April 27, 2009) — Airport Authority Chairman Joe Tannehill pledged a full public accounting of the actions and events that led to stormwater control deficiencies at the new airport site in West Bay during the recent deluge.

Last week Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) officials and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) toured the new airport construction site and expressed concerns that current efforts to mitigate excessive stormwater runoff had become inadequate in the wake of unusually heavy rains during the month of April.

“Whatever the cause, any deficiencies in stormwater management at the new airport site are simply inexcusable,” said Tannehill. “The people of Bay County and Northwest Florida deserve to know what went wrong and what we are doing to correct the situation.  The  Airport Authority will provide a full public accounting.”

“Our first priority is to address the stormwater issues as soon as possible,” said Tannehill.  “We committed to submitting our plan for corrective action to FDEP by Wednesday, April 29.  We are moving aggressively to correct the situation, and we are preparing for the tropical storm  season ahead.”

Tannehill has begun meeting with site contractors and engineers to review the situation, determine the cause of the deficiencies, and most importantly, to establish a clear plan for correcting the situation and ensuring it never happens again.

Tannehill said the Airport Authority would continue to work closely with FDEP and USACOE to ensure the stormwater management deficiencies are corrected.

“But our commitment goes beyond addressing the current deficiencies.  Once we have reviewed all the facts we will provide the citizens of Bay County a full accounting,” said Tannehill.

“It is not enough simply to say that the stormwater management issues were the result of an extraordinary amount of rain — so much rain that Bay County was declared by the state and federal government a disaster area.  If there was mismanagement the public has a right to know,” said Tannehill.

The Airport Authority said it would keep the public informed of its efforts to address the deficiencies through regular updates to the new airport’s public information web site at www.newpcairport.com.

“This was not an environmental disaster as some of the airport opponents have declared.  Our limits for turbidity were exceeded and that is a problem we will fix.  I think that every stream and bayou in Northwest Florida had elevated silt levels with the 20 inches of rain we experienced.  There will be no lasting environmental damage from this event,” said Tannehill.

“This airport Board resolved long ago to make the new Panama City – Bay County International Airport one of the world’s most environmentally-friendly and this latest event and what we will learn from it will only strengthen that resolve,” said Tannehill.

The Airport Authority has been working with FDEP for years, including several years on the Ecosytem Team Permitting process.  Under the Ecosystem Team Permit, the airport site and surrounding West Bay Sector will produce a net environmental gain when the airport project is complete.

“We will continue working with FDEP to ensure our new airport ultimately results in a net environmental gain for our region, and to build and operate one of the nation’s greenest airports,” said Tannehill.