Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport manager talks developments
PARKERSBURG — Airports can play an important part in the economic development of an area, the local airport manager told county commissioners.
Glen Kelly, the new manager of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, appeared before the Wood County Commission Thursday to give an update on what is happening at the local airport.
“I know there are a lot of people who love this airport and that is a great thing,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he recently received word from the Transportation Security Administration, with help from U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, that funding was secured to continue to pay for a law enforcement officer from the Wood County Sheriff’s Department to provide security at the airport.
“They contribute over $27,000 of $37,000 and thankfully the county commission contributes the rest to ensure we have the law enforcement officer there,” he said. “This has been one of the true security wins since 9/11.”
“If (the TSA) had removed that officer, it makes that area less secure,” Kelly said. “We felt this was really important.”
TSA doesn’t have arrest abilities as those rely on local officers, he said.
Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said he would not be able to provide that security without the financial support.
Kelly told the commission about how he sees the airport as being a part of the economic development of the area.
Years ago, Kelly said, he talked to U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., about a road being built in the state. Kelly said he thought it was a little much for what the state needed.
“(Byrd) took me to school and said to me ‘Without infrastructure, there is no economic development,'” he said. “I do believe that airports are a key piece of that infrastructure and any business is looking for when they come to an area.”
Kelly said they want to create a tax increment financing (TIF) district at and around the airport as well establish a foreign trade zone.
“(Of the foreign trade zone) many states and regions have really benefited from,” he said. South Carolina has received major manufacturing operations as a result which have generated a lot of jobs, he said.
“I think there is a real ability to really help economic growth,” Kelly added.
Commission President Blair Couch said he believes Kelly will be focused on economic development with his work for the airport. It is not just people passing through to go to a local business, but for the area to become a hub for different businesses, he said.
“It is a great effort to tackle,” Couch said.
Kelly said he sees the opportunity of economic development through the airport.
“The thing for me coming back to West Virginia is to help develop jobs so people want to stay here and raise their families here can do that,” he said.
Helen Westbrook is back at the airport restaurant which is part of an effort to get people to come back to the airport restaurant on a regular basis.
Commissioner Robert Tebay asked if more air freight business would be a possibility for the airport.
With FedEx operations nearby, Kelly hoped they would expand and really utilize the airport, especially if a trade zone can be established.
Kelly said he wants to create facilities where they can bed down planes from the commercial airline to be able to improve air service.
Via Air is at a 96 percent completion rate this month, he said of 401 enplanements outbound and 763 in and out of the airport. Kelly wants to get up to 800 a month which qualifies the airport for additional funding.
Larger hangar facilities can bring in bigger business jets, he said.
Executives from Sheetz and DuPont have been flying into the area to check on new developments, said Kelly.
Fuel sales are up over last year due to an upswing in the economy, he said.
“We are the third busiest airport in West Virginia (behind Morgantown and Charleston),” Kelly said.
In other business, Stephens said he would like to see someone address corrections officers pay. Stephens appeared before the commission Thursday to discuss what he sees as a growing problem.
Corrections officers in Wood County make around $25,000 a year to work 24-hour shifts, holidays, weekends, he said.
Stephens said he recently lost people to take higher paying jobs across the river in Ohio where they could make $7 more an hour. Officers there start at just under $40,000 a year, he said.
“That is about $5,000 more than a deputy sheriff who starts for me,” he said.
Couch said talk around the state is many want the Regional Jail System and the State Department of Corrections to be combined into one entity where funding could be restructured to better take care of needs.
“That would free up a lot of money for us to be able to take care of corrections officers and address the pay concerns,” he said.
Such action would have to come through the West Virginia Legislature, commissioners said.