SELLERSBURG — One expanded runway in Clark County has opened up countless opportunities spanning the world.
“The sky truly is the limit for us now,” said Indiana State Sen. Ron Grooms, R-46th District, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the expansion of Clark Regional Airport on Wednesday afternoon.
“We are going to look back and say, ‘Wow, that really was a big day for Clark County.’ I couldn’t be more excited for the people and businesses of Clark County right now. This is just the beginning of so many more opportunities. We are so fortunate to have this airport to connect us to greater growth and business development.”
John Secor, Clark Regional Airport manager, was all smiles at the event, as he tried to thank all the people and businesses that worked together to make the day a reality.
"Today we celebrate the culmination of work that began in 2005, and spans 16 federal and state grants," he said.
There was much jubilation during the celebration of the $20 million runway extension from 5,500 feet to 7,000, which allows for more flights and bigger planes.
“This is going to make a profound difference in the traffic that comes in and out of this airport. I am really excited about the opportunities I see here,” said U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-9th District, during the ceremony.
The extension was a major component of a larger, multi-faceted improvement initiative for the airport, which also included relocating a railroad crossing and moving Bean Road, a major county road, Secor said.
Among other numerous improvements, lighting and weather observation towers were also replaced and moved. Additionally, a new hangar was opened as well, providing additional revenue through rental fees and more.
"This project didn't take a village to complete, it took a county. It took a state. It took a nation," said James Baker, current Board of Aviation Commissioners' president for the South Central Regional Airport Authority (SCRAA), which formed in 2014.
"Make no mistake about it," Baker said. "This is a major, major turning point for all of us, as aviation continues to play a greater part in our future, and in our families and in our communities.”
What started out as farmland decades ago is now a bustling regional airport consisting of 870 acres, 27 buildings, 135 employees and a nationally renowned flight school, Secor said.
More than 40 people attended the ribbon cutting, which was held out on the extended portion of the runway.
Many in the audience were elected officials from the various municipalities that worked together to ensure that funding for the expansion was secured.
“The decision for Jeffersonville to invest money into the airport a few years ago is paying big dividends,” Jeffersonville city councilman Nathan Samuel said after the event.
The airport currently supports more than 55,000 takeoffs and landings every year, with two runways. Now, with the runway expansion, Clark Regional Airport is the fourth busiest general aviation airport in Indiana, according to information provided by SCRAA.
Pulling together all the funding from federal, state and local sources was a monumental undertaking for the airport authority, Samuel said.
“I commend them – and the current and former leadership – in their progress,” Samuel said.
Clark County commissioner Jack Coffman echoed Samuel’s sentiments.
“We’ve got a great board out there that works diligently to get the kind of things done that truly benefit the entire county,” he said, adding, “the county is fortunate to have such an efficient, well-operated airport” that serves as a crucial advantage when courting national and international companies to the area.
“Our airport is such a blessing for the entire county in countless ways,” he said.
Samuel and fellow Jeffersonville city councilman Matt Owen both agreed with Coffman.
“This is just another tool we can now use to highlight Southern Indiana when businesses are looking at our community for areas to relocate to and grow their business,” Owen said.
“The companies that are moving into River Ridge have specifically stated that the airport was one of their key check-offs in choosing Jeffersonville,” Samuel said.
“They are able to access quick delivery on parts and products – and even clients – for their businesses.”
Additionally, Coffman, Owen and Samuel all noted the airport expansion’s success is a shining example of the collective success that results from the county’s municipalities rallying together to support key initiatives.
“We all partnered together so well on this and, anymore, we are working together on so many other things that are producing great results,” Coffman said.
“Today’s completion of the runway extension truly shows what we can do when we come together as individual communities to leverage a shared regional asset,” Owen said.
“Now, no matter where you live … we’re all Clark County,” Coffman said, “and we are working together as such. Whatever benefits one, benefits us all.”