The Liberty Gazette
January 20, 2009
January 20, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: Climbing 181 steps inside a brand new air traffic control tower took us to the tower’s cab, where the natural light of day shines through fully surrounding windows. A sneak peak at the tower ready to be opened next month gave us an enviable vantage point overlooking Conroe’s Lone Star Executive Airport. Scott Smith, Airport Director, is proud of this airport and well he should be. It’s a great asset and economic generator.
Scott came to Conroe a couple of years ago; his experience gained from managing airports in Los Angeles, Denver, and Seattle translates to good fortune for Montgomery County. On our tour he explained how the airport grew since 1945, how cooperation between private individuals, local and state government, all who have invested in the airport, has resulted in benefits for the area. In spite of today’s economy, Scott sees a thriving future for Lone Star Executive.
Public and private developers have impressed all the right people needed to improve airport access. New access to I-45 that will be more direct to the airport is being studied, and completion of the Grand Parkway will further open access. Both the county and state were so impressed with the efforts and results that they are now moving a major road to accommodate lengthening the main runway. This will improve safety for those flying in and will minimize impact on airport neighbors.
After the road is moved, a 1,500’ extension will bring the runway to 7,500’, long enough to accept any large corporate aircraft, and it is anticipated this will attract additional business/technology to the area, which will bring higher paying jobs.
Linda: It’s a common sense success story. Montgomery County knew the airport’s value long ago. Lacking the funds for improvements, they attracted private investment in development projects and Fixed Base Operations – companies that offer services to aircraft operators big and small. Doing so has brought a large influx of capital from the private sector. TXDOT’s Aviation Division realized the county’s commitment so they partnered in long term development plans that are now coming to fruition. This in turn made Conroe’s airport very attractive, so much so that new businesses (jobs) are moving in to the area because there are good facilities to accommodate them.
It all started with private development, and took off from there. Now there are several privately developed hangar projects with long term ground leases and reasonable rates, three large FBO’s offering fuel, maintenance and storage services, as well as a multi-million dollar paint facility whose customers have included large regional airlines and NetJets, the world’s largest fractional ownership operator.
Mike: Standing in the control tower cab looking out over the expanse of good sense economic development, I couldn’t help but draw an analogy between the view from the tower and the leaders of Montgomery County: long range vision. They are where they are today, collecting half a million dollars in local tax income from their airport because they had the foresight to see the possibilities.
Linda: With the increase in business comes an increase in jobs, tax base, and local spending. We’ve been tooting the horn for private investment here in Liberty and hope this shining example will catch the eye of aviation-friendly folks who truly want to contribute to the community.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.