WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) -There's a new name on the manager's office door at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport. Native son Mitch Whitmire has taken over the job from Ken Newcom who resigned late last year.
It was a great day to stand on the ramp and watch small aircraft shooting touch and go's on the runway.
Even though Whitmire has only held the position for a couple of months there is an air of change around the tarmac.
What does this retired Army officer bring to the ramp?
"A very broad background as far as the different modes of transportation and how it applies to the public and public use."
From the infantry to logistics to the railroad, Mitch says coming home to this job means a lot.
"Having grown up here you know there's no place like home. It's just been a very rewarding experience to come home."
Since he hasn't been around for many years, what were his first thoughts on seeing the airport again?
"The growth potential for this area and airport is exponential just based on the size alone."
Whitmire has made some changes already from uniforms for airport personnel, to decluttering the parking ramp to installing new tie down ropes after the snow.
Does he envision freighters or passenger planes?
"Of course every airport would love to have passenger service."
But since he's started, a freight customer has started using the airport for parking and fuel.
Whitmire believes in growth and one of the airports major industries, Universal Asset Management is growing, all over the ramps. But that's a good thing Whitmire says.
"It's a growing business and it's something we look at. Universal Asset is a very good tenant and we're glad to have them here and we hope to be able to accommodate their needs in the future."
Besides the ramp space , the airport has a large industrial park.
Whitmire acknowledges there is a lot of industry but he says there's plenty of room for growth.
"We can continue to grow, we are in the process right now of trying to help right now, two industries trying to build buildings here."
Which of course could mean more jobs as well.
Perhaps the one sour note is the bitter battle between the airport and the Walnut Ridge Country Club over a runway re-classification.
Still studying the documentation, Whitmire was cautious in his answer.
"I can tell you. I'm by no means an expert on it yet and still need quite a bit more time to digest the data and so forth to be able to formulate an opinion."
So for the future what is his motivation?
"That's the one thing that's really got me excited is the ability to help grow this airport."