Make No Mistake, the Purpose of the New Airport is to MAKE MONEY

by November 19, 2009 • 21 comments
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Often I receive all sorts of cynical comments about the construction of the new airport in Panama City Beach.  This is, in fact, one of my favorite topics to debate, I love hearing what everyone has to say and I love forming rebuttals.  So this is the first of a series of posts that I want to walk down the line of some of the comments I get and open it all up for conversation in the comments below.

I’ll list out the cynical comments, then I’ll explain why they are so off base, you’ll see why the new airport has NOTHING to do with bringing “Aunt Pearl” home.

With all the stories of salvation for the beaches/region and controversies surrounding the environment, cost and name, of the airport, one would think that DIA was being recreated in the swamps of north Florida. Why didn’t they just put a set of wheels on the PC airport, call a house mover, place it on the site, have the road crew off pulled hwy 79 for a week to lay the runway or just collect oyster shells from all the “local” bars and have those crushed and put down like they once covered the roads, use Maison jars with candles in them for runway lights, take a used bill board sign and spray paint airport on it and call it a day. If I were flying in to visit Vernon or Wiewahitchka, as my regional destination, I would be completely satisfied with those amities. Get a grip, The airport is being built to generate tourist dollars not to get Aunt Pearl home.

The nature of this comment is simple.  The reader is obviously against the location of the new airport.  And, understandably so, right?  Well, if they are used to driving only a short time from “in-town” then yes, I could see why they wouldn’t want it closer to “the beach.”  But what about us beach-folks?  It takes us forever to cross the bridge and weave through town to get to the airport, shouldn’t we get a turn?

Seriously though, the reasoning for the location of the airport, as I understand it, is more complex than someone throwing a dart at a map and saying “that’s were we’ll move it!”  Almost 10 years ago, when the Airport Authority first started talking about moving the airport, a prospective location was decided based on required consideration for the airspace restrictions of the  Tyndall and Eglin Air Force Bases.  You see, above us in the sky is a complex map of pathways that are granted to our two Air Force Bases that allow them to perform normal and test operations as part of their training regimens.  In the interest of national security, the Department of Defense can’t have commercial planes just coming and going where ever some political, citizen of airport director deems fit; there are military factors to consider.

The mapping didn’t leave many options for where a new airport could be located,  not to mention that the single largest land owner in Bay County was St. Joe.  So, it would only make sense that if they needed 4,000 acres to build an airport, who else are they going to ask?  That’s right, I said “ask.”  As in the Airport Authority asked St. Joe for the land, not the other way around.  You see, this was all started by the airport authority, not St. Joe.  Sure, St. Joe loves the idea, but it wasn’t theirs.

So, lets talk about tourist dollars.  I don’t see why people don’t get this connection.  This is really not all that complex.  New airport equals higher capacity to bring people to our beaches.  New AWESOME low-cost carrier agrees to come here and bring the people.  TDC, St. Joe pledge money and Coastal Vision 3000 pledge resources to incentivize visitors to come here.  Tourism explodes because our area is exposed to millions of people that had no idea we even existed.  Millions more people come to our beaches each year that results in condos being rented AND sold, restaurants being filled, shops being shopped at, beach services being used, house keepers getting work, repair men fixing problems, carpet cleaners cleaning carpet, home builders get to go back to work trying to fill demand. . .  you get the picture?  I can’t name one segment of our TOURIST DRIVEN local economy that isn’t effected in a good way by more TOURISTS coming to our area.

The purpose of the new airport is obviously to bring in more tourist dollars, and has absolutely NOTHING to do with Aunt Pearl.  If locals get to benefit from lower air fare prices, etc., that’s just icing on the cake.


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1 Mike Stokes November 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

Yes, I agree that the new airport will be great for tourism and local businesses. Unfortunately, along with “progress” comes change. Big-Time change. Panama City Beach will certainly lose its character, its hometown feeling, and its charm. I will miss it. But, that’s just life.

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2 Don H. November 19, 2009 at 10:03 am

Clearly there will be some that hate any change for change sake. Some will dislike the noise, traffic, or some other fact of life with a new airport. But when you consider the future of this area nothing will be more attractive to tourism than a modern airport with a large low cost carrier serving major city. How can anyone be seriously against this? Try not to think of strictly your own little world but of the area as a whole.

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3 Cathy P November 19, 2009 at 10:04 am

As a “foreigner” who invested money in PCB by purchasing a condo there (It’s now worth 25% of what I paid – don’t ask!), it is the ONLY way to increase tourism. I live in the Northeast and it is time consuming and costly to get to PCB without the new airport. No-one I know has ever even heard of PCB! There are just too many other inexpensive options for them to take!

I would hope that the “locals” would welcome an increase in FAMILIES vacationing on the beaches – After all, they couldn’t possibly cause any more “trouble” than Spring Breakers! I will be keeping my fingers, toes and EYES crossed that someday I might be able to recoup some of the hundreds of thousands (okay 3) I’ve lost already!

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4 Sue J November 19, 2009 at 10:08 am

I agree with Mike. PCB will probably lose some of its character. I first started coming to PCB about 25 years ago when my brother was in the Navy. I fell in love with the town, it’s charm and beautiful beaches. Been going back at least once a year since then. My parents spend the winter there. (Snow birds from MN) I must admit, I am extremely excited about Southwest adding PCB to it’s route. That means less-expensive tickets and non-stop flights for me.

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5 Jeff November 19, 2009 at 10:22 am

Right on!

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6 Cara Dee November 19, 2009 at 10:34 am

I find it funny that people who were so up in arms about me protesting the new “Nascar Themed Go Cart Track” (granted, not on this site) were SO in my face because, and I quote, “we need the tourist attraction to bring money to our town”. I am not kidding, why then do those same folks (again, not on this site) loathe the idea of the new airport and SOUTHWEST? *sorry I get excited, always capitalize it*

I agree with Mike; I will miss the smaller town feel here…thats what I love about it. But by the same token, I agree with another poster who stated it will make the area more attractive for FAMILIES to vacation and not the bloody spring breakers! Thats another issue though…

All this is just my opinion, I vent on occasion. Thanks Jason!

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7 Lisa Felix November 19, 2009 at 11:50 am

You are right on target Jason! For the short-term, but I see a bigger picture… This is the first seriously international airport in the US built with 10,000 ft runways in a decade, and that means we can land the big Airbus planes that can fly non-stop from Singapor without restrictions, opening up our region not just to folks looking for $99 tix from Southwest, but litterally the whole world. Not too mention the fact that the new airport is surrounded by 1000′ s of acres of green-space, some of which is ear-marked for airport industrial use with runway access. I don’t think people realize what a premium that is in todays industrial market, with most major airports painted into a corner with residential and commercial growth, we have a blank canvas. I see lots many more high paying jobs comming into our area over the next 10 years. For the record, I was born and raised here, and I’ll miss the old PCB too, but I am excited at the prospect of my kids being able to stay in the area and have great careers that don’t involve bartending! And as a real estate broker located in West Bay…. well that’s just a no-brainer:)… who am I kidding, my kids are going to sell Real Estate!

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8 Judie November 19, 2009 at 12:22 pm

The Genie is out of the bottle and she is not going back in. We are a very desirable city.
Please everyone embrace the changes and pray that our little town will grow into a thriving city that will allow people to grow and prosper and not have to leave here to get jobs.
I once was told that the plan is to be more like Tampa and not like West Palm,
Well I have lived in Tampa and it was a good place. We can have so many positive changes if we just relaxe and remember what happened to Ft. Myers area when they opened their airport. It was all good. We are so much more than our beautiful beaches and we can grow in so many different segments. Now I know change is hard and there will be a loss of what we are use to, but lets embrace it , try and be grateful and hope for the best for everyone involved.

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9 Tom Bubb November 19, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The airport completes what amounts to a business plan tri-fecta. Rail/Barge/Air. Arizona Chemical’s corporate office left Bay County in 2000 to Jacksonville Fl because of cost of air fare, Stoltz Nelson’s corporate office moved out of Panama City to Houston, Tx in the mid 1990’s due to cost of air fare. These were executive pay jobs that move out of this area because of the high cost of doing business. With the addition of cheap air, very few areas will be able to compete with North West Florida. Job growth will be the major benefactor and “The Beach” will be the eye candy to lure them here. We are on schedule to become a major metropolitan in the next 20 years. For this reason I can understand the opposition’s fear of changing from a small laid back tourist town. Traffic, congestion and crime will be the best visual indicator of this change. That said, along come the good. Better education for our children, better prospect for employment, higher quality of living, children living closer to where they grow up. Like it or not we are heading to be an urban community. These changes need to be embraced with thoughtfulness and responsible planning.
It is irresponsible not to plan for it. If you have lemons you make the best you can out of it.

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10 Jeannie Whitworth November 19, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I am really looking forward to the new airport. I live here and some of my family has been here for years. I am sick and tired of our young people having to move from this wonderful area to be able to support their families. I see growth here, with better paying jobs. My husband and I had to move from here 35 years ago to Atlanta just to get a decent paying job with insurance. I don’t see that many good job opportunites here right now. We had to wait until my husband retired to move back to where I call home. Unfortunatly my son had to move back to Atlanta to get a decent job. He has a college degree from UGA in Bussiness and he could not find a decent paying job here. So I say let it come and all that is with it. Unlike some folks, I hope the airport succeeds

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11 Craig November 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I think there is good reason to believe that the following will happen:

1. More Tourists
2. More Jobs
3. More Prosperity

Having invested in property in Rosemary Beach, I did so for what the area is and what it can be.

I’m fairly certain that when the airport opens, the magical emerald waters and white sand will still be there. And hopefully, so will a lot of other people with money to spend.

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12 gerald November 19, 2009 at 8:10 pm

well it will probably make a big difference and i am all for it

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13 karen Smith November 20, 2009 at 1:50 am

I get so excited every time we start talking about our new airport!! As a Realtor and a person who flies often I am elated and welcome the growth and prosperity. I have also noticed already a kindred spirit and unity in the development of our beach that we love so much. I have also witnessed a growing enthusiasm and optimism that will be the foundation of a new improved Panama City Beach that people can actually get to. There will always be grouchy grumpy folks who just love to whine but thankfully I do not run into them too often
Jason, thanks so much for keeping us up to date and giving us a place to let our voices be heard!!!

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14 Richard November 20, 2009 at 7:13 am

Has anyone driven down 388 at night. If I was a first time visitor and take cab down the unlighted 2 lane country road leaving the airport in either direction I would fear for my life. The county is going to have to provide better lighting especially going out 388 towards 77. We will have the newest airport in the nation connected by a cow trail.

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15 Rob N November 20, 2009 at 9:57 am

I agree with you Richard!

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16 Jay D November 20, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Are we filtering the comments here? Every other site I’ve been on has at least a 50-50 mix of pro-con the airport and on this site there’s nothing but comments for it? I don’t think so.

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17 Jason Koertge November 20, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Jay D, nope, not filtering comments here. The only comments that don’t make it through the moderation process are the ones that have foul language or contain personal attacks to individuals.

But I will say that we (pcbdaily) have always been very much in support of the airport and the positive economic development it will bring over the years, and although we’ve had many write their opinions in opposition to the airport, none of their arguments seem to hold the test of debate.

Jay D, I would offer you a friendly challenge to offer some of your opposing thoughts on the airport. I love to debate the issues and promise to play fair ;-).

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18 James D. November 20, 2009 at 7:43 pm

I think people are reacting with the same fervor as those in Atlanta did after landing the Olympics. Everyone thought they would immediately profit from hosting the ’96 Games. The reality was quite the opposite. While the games raised the profile of Atlanta, the economic impact lagged in the form of regional growth over the course of a decade.

Things to keep people sober:
– We’re still recovering from the Great Recession
– Travel budgets are still restricted — especially for families
– The airport will also serve all of 30-A, South Walton, Destin and other regional destinations
– It’s a great catalyst for growth, but it will be slow and sustained
– Southwest is only signed-on for three years!

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19 jobeibi November 21, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Richard, 388 will be 4-laned and better lit than it is now.
http://pcbdaily.com/airport/west-bay-parkway

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20 Elliot B December 1, 2009 at 9:39 am

Most of Florida is overbuilt, and over the last decade has gone from one of the most inexpensive state’s to live (circa 45th) to one of the more expensive state’s in inhabit. Additionally, much of Florida has become crowed and congested which has translated to a compromised lifestyle. Northwest Florida offers potential residents an affordable alternative without any compromise to ones lifestyle. Heretofore, the inaccessibility of the area made growth in this region impossible. However with the addition of the new airport, the committment of Southwest (Thanks JOE), the newly created marketing initiatives, not to mention the wonderful climate and beaches, the region is a can’t miss for sustained growth for decades to come. Some will fight this growth because they don’t want to lose their “serene paradise”, but change, growth and prosperity are inevitable. Unlike the remainder of Florida where the timing of recovery is unknown you can bet your last dollar that recovery will occur here prior to May 18, 2010

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21 Mike December 1, 2009 at 5:13 pm

International flights to PCB…? Forget it, try selling the thousands of condos that are for sale first, bring in more opportunities for employment. If we think a new airport will turn our economy into the black, please call me, I have a nice piece of swamp land for you to buy and build another high rise on.

With that said, I do hope the airport will help Bay and the surrounding counties, but I don’t think it will for a very long period of time.

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