December 9, 2011

Charleston Airport Authority

December 6, 2011: Sue Stevens, a graduate of James Madison University, has been the Director of the Charleston Regional Airport for over 20 years. She is past president of the national airport association and is currently a member of the North Charleston Breakfast Rotary Club.

The Charleston airport was opened in 1929, the same year that the first Cooper River Bridge opened. It has been run by the airport authority since 1970 by a 13 member board. The authority manages three airports: International which it shares with the Air Force, with the Air Force owning the land since the 1940's, the Johns Island Executive Airport with a 5300 foot runway and the Mt. Pleasant Regional Airport with a 3700 foot runway. Given that international shares its runway with both the large AF transport planes and high speed fighter jets, no small or executive planes are permitted to land there. Nationally, it is rare for the managing authority not to own the airport, but the FAA does maintain the control tower, capping off an excellent cooperative venture.

The authority's business model is unique in that it is totally self-sufficient and receives no tax money. The major revenue comes from parking and rental car fees, supplemented by fees from the airlines and airport vendors.

Unlike many aspects of the economy, Charleston's airport is growing and has the same traffic volume as it did in 2007 before the economic recession. We have more flights than ever and are served by six airlines: American, Continental, Delta, United, USAir, and Southwest. The addition of SW airlines has brought increased traffic and better fares. There are currently 16 non-stop destinations from Charleston. We have 64 daily departures, the same as 2007 which notes that while we had a dip between then and 2010, we have totally recovered. Passenger activity is currently up 25% from prior years.

It is hard to begin to note the huge impact that Boeing has had on the airport. The factory is built on authority land and the company has full rights to use the runways. The company provides 6300 jobs, the airport 6700 jobs and when you add AF personnel the whole complex has about 35,000 jobs with almost 7 billion in wages.

The airport terminal is now 30 years old, too small and outdated. It is currently embarking on a major development project. Expansion of concrete to enable plane parking while construction is underway will in itself cover 17 acres. The terminal will add about 100,000 square feet, with two concourse expansions and a third baggage belt. Plane loading and departure gates will expand from 10 to 16.

The growth of Charleston Regional Airport is a direct mirror of the growth and desirability of the Charleston metropolitan area. Conde Nast notes that Charleston is the number 1 city in America people wish to visit and number 3 in the world!

Submitted by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

December 5, 2011

Hitt's Shares Plans for South Carolina's Growth

November 29, 2011: Our speaker was Bobby Hitt, Secretary of Commerce. A native of Charleston and a graduate of the University of South Carolina, he served for many years as publisher of The State newspaper in Columbia and another 18 years as Department Manager for Corporate Affairs for BMW. He has served on many boards and was honored in 2006 as USC distinguished alumni.

His goal in his new position, to which he was appointed by Gov. Haley, is to bring compromise for better economic development for the state. He notes that the current year is best investment year ever with over 10,000 new jobs added to the state work force with an impact of billions of dollars. High on the list of new jobs is a rebirth of manufacturing in South Carolina. We are a "right to work" state and have a loyal and skilled pool of workers who have many opportunities for training and personal development. He notes that SC today is better known internationally for its excellence than is perceived by the states' citizens. 75% of new manufacturing work has come from the international community. The new Continental Tire Company in the midlands is setting the stage for SC to be the tire manufacturing center of the nation.

Our major challenges are to be flexible to the needs of the market place and to insure that we have a transportation system for the movement of goods produced in the state.

In response to questions he noted that the Charleston Harbor WILL BE DREDGED TO A 50 FOOT CHANNEL to accommodate the larger ships that are coming when the wider Panama Canal opens. He expects the state to provide up to 200 million dollars for the project. He also predicted that there will be a settlement of the railroad issues relating to the port and North Charleston.

Submitted by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee