GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Did you know there's an airport in Georgetown?
County leaders say it's being overlooked, even though it plays a huge role in the area's tourism and economic development.
The airport is on Airport Road in Georgetown County, just 5 miles south of downtown Georgetown along 17 just beyond the HGTC campus there.
Its 8,500 square feet and was built back in December 2008, but leaders say most people don't know that and that's what they're trying to change.
Georgetown County leaders really want the community to embrace the airport.
So what they've come up with so far is a wish list that helps make locals as well as potential visitors more aware of the airport, and also ways to grow the business community around the airport.
Over the last several months, they toured the Greenville Spartanburg Airport to replicate some of its ideas to determine what the airport in Georgetown should look like.
To make it easier for economic development staff to attract appropriate businesses to the airport, they plan on opening a restaurant to cater to pilots as well as attract local residents to visit.
Georgetown County leaders say they're not taking any losses in their numbers, but they want other leaders in the community like economic developers, chamber of commerce and tourism staff to work together on ideas that will help bring the airport to its fullest potential.
"People utilize the airport every day, there is a high demand, it is just often underappreciated by tourism efforts, things like that, so this is just to build awareness," Georgetown County Public Information Officer Jackie Broach said.
Right now there's no word on what type of restaurant or where the funding will come from for this initiative.
It is expected to take about 10 years for all aspects of the plan to be executed, but some parts should be carried out as early as summer.
The airport is also initiating a first of its kind community outreach program.
Georgetown County leaders feel a lot of our youth don't think careers in aeronautics are a possibility.
But in all reality it offers some of the highest paying jobs even without a four year degree.
So leaders are meeting with all of the schools in the Georgetown County School District to discuss certain programs to get students more in the know and involved.
Aerospace is the second largest industry in South Carolina, and the coastal region leads in aerospace jobs and services.
But leaders feel there's still a great need to reach out to local schools to expand and create programs that will allow students to visit the airport and, in some cases, even take their first flight.
That, they say will contribute to the lack of interest locally in pursuing careers in aviation.
Leaders say to build the demand from the bottom up, it's a necessity to reach out to schools at the high school and college level to let them know what kinds of opportunities there are for people with interests in flight training or mechanical engineering.
"Maybe let some of them have their very first flight and just start to look at aeronautics as a career, whether they're going to be a pilot or work on planes, there are lots of job opportunities in that field in this area as well as training opportunities," Broach said.
The Pittsburgh Institute for Aeronautics in Myrtle Beach has an agreement with HGTC and is willing to offer courses to students.
The S.C. Aeronautics Commission already has a high school curriculum developed and is ready for local schools to put it in place.