Legislation changing the governance structure of Asheville Regional Airport was passed by the North Carolina general assembly on June 28, 2012. The legislation changes the current structure of the Asheville Regional Airport Authority from a joint governmental agency comprised primarily of Asheville City and Buncombe County appointees to an independent, state-sanctioned governing body. The independent airport authority will go into effect on July 1, 2012.
The Asheville Regional Airport board and management team are pleased with the legislation, and see this as a natural next step in the growth of the region’s airport structure. As was the long-term vision of early leaders, Asheville Regional Airport has truly grown to be a regional entity – a true success. In 1979, the Asheville Regional Airport Authority was established as a joint governmental agency by the City of Asheville and the County of Buncombe for the purpose of maintaining, operating, regulating and improving the Asheville Regional Airport. This was a natural step for the organization at that time – moving from a department of the City of Asheville to a joint governmental agency. Growth and regionalization have continued to occur, which have propelled the organization to another milestone: its designation as an independent authority.
Lew Bleiweis, Airport Director, has seen airport governance move in this direction in recent years. "The airport industry is a cornerstone of the nation’s travel infrastructure, and we have experienced significant change in the past few decades. Independent airport authorities are emerging more and more, due in large part to operational efficiencies that can be realized." In particular, the new independent airport authority structure at AVL will allow the Authority greater flexibility in property acquisition and development – key to an airport’s continued growth and success. Also, grant applications, development of long-term leases, and non-aviation related business development will be more efficiently implemented.
"This legislation is a positive one for the airport and the region," said David Hillier, Asheville Regional Airport Authority board chairman. "Our legislators’ support of this law recognizes the fact that AVL is in fact a regional economic engine. It is time for our governance structure to match what we have become."
A brief history about Asheville Regional Airport:
In 1958, the City of Asheville passed a $1.2 million bond referendum. The primary purpose of the referendum was to purchase land for new commercial airport. The on-going long-term economic impact to the region – through the attraction of new businesses, support of tourism and addition of jobs to the area – was the desired return on investment for this expenditure.
Because of the continued positive economic impact of the airport to the region, Buncombe County passed bond referenda that provided $8 million for airport expansion/improvements in the 1990s. Also, through the 50 year history of the airport’s existence, millions of dollars of state and federal grant funds have been provided to improve the airport. Today, Asheville Regional Airport serves approximately 750,000 commercial passengers each year, the most by far in its 50 year history.