Regional Airport in Lawrence County?

October 18, 2005--Posted at 6:30 p.m. CDT

WALNUT RIDGE, AR--It has more area than the Memphis Airport and it could eventually become the Northeast Arkansas Regional Airport.

"The infrastructure is already in place the runways are already there and we feel we have the growth ability and we just think it is an excellent location," said Ernest Briner, Walnut Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce member.

Representatives from 9 counties in Northeast Arkansas are supporting a resolution for a feasibility study to make the 1800 acre Walnut Ridge Regional Airport the area's regional airport.

"The whole region will benefit by this being becoming the regional airport because everybody will buy into it and everyone will be a part of the airport," said Briner.

Currently the airport is governed by a local commission, but control  could eventually be handed over to a port authority.

"The city of Walnut Ridge would relinquish control of the airport forever once it was done it would be a done deal," said Walnut Ridge Regional Airport Manager Ken Newcom.

By establishing a port authority the town of Walnut Ridge would be handing over control of the airport to the port authority, the port authority would consist of members from 9 of the participating counties in Northeastern Arkansas.

"The only difference is who you change the administration to, you either keep here local under the city of walnut ridge or you give it away to other counties and other towns in the surrounding area," said Newcom.

Even though Walnut Ridge would lose control of the airport the city would still benefit by industry which would be drawn to a regional airport.

"I think if we had a regional airport it would benefit the whole region, Walnut Ridge would participate in that benefit," said Milton Smith of the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission.

So what would the time table be to establish this regional airport?

"You are probably looking at 5 to 7 years down the road but we got to start somewhere," said Briner.