Fuel for the engine:

Cullman Regional Airport improvements under new grant contribute to local economic growth

Cullman Regional Airport Manager Ben Harrison on the airport’s apron. (Cullman Tribune file photo)

VINEMONT, Ala. – Last Friday, Congressman Robert Aderholt announced a $3.4 million grant from the federal government that will help to reconstruct the runway and runway lighting at Folsom Field/Cullman Regional Airport as part of its ongoing five year plan.  

Said Aderholt, “I’m pleased to announce that the Cullman Regional Airport will be receiving these funds. The funds are being administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century. As a member of Congress, and specifically, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I strongly believe in these types of investments in our infrastructure. Folsom Field has played a vital role in Cullman and Cullman County’s current economic boom. It has been used as a direct recruitment tool for companies deciding to locate to the area. This investment will ensure that success continues.”  

Airport General Manager Ben Harrison told The Tribune, “The long-term plan–the five-year running plan–is just that. We really focused in 2014 on priorities. Everyone was involved in the priority schedule: The city and county, the airport board, ALDOT (Alabama Department of Transportation, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the state and federal delegations, all local elected officials and non-elected officials and our engineering team. We put the plan in place with input from the state and federal authorities to ensure we established goals that were achievable.  

“I am happy to say the first five-year plan was completed in 2019 with very little changes from the original draft. The reason this is so important is funding. It takes years to get all of the funding in place for the projects. Everyone is competing for the same dollars. We have to build a strong case for the project needed. The best way to compete is stay on track. Everyone knows which direction we are heading. We have projects planned on paper through 2026. Every year we complete a project, we add another on to the bottom of the list. We want to grow and improve every year! We also want to maintain everything we have built.” 

An economic engine 

“The airport is an economic driver for the community,” said Harrison. “The industries use the airport. People may have never been here, but the airport was a factor in the industries locating in Cullman.” 

ALDOT’s Aeronautics Bureau published a report on Cullman’s airport, including this description of the facility: 

Cullman Regional-Folsom Field (CMD) is located in northern Alabama, approximately 5 miles north of the City of Cullman in Cullman County. It has a 5,500-footlong paved runway equipped with high intensity runway lighting and offers a GPS-based instrument approach with vertical guidance to support safe and efficient aircraft operations. The airport also has a general aviation terminal building and provides various aircraft services including Avgas (100LL) and Jet A fueling. It is classified in the Alabama Statewide Airport System Plan as a General Aviation Regional Airport, which is one considered to be a primary contributor to Alabama’s airport system by accommodating general aviation activities focused on business activities including jet aircraft. Regional Airports also provide significant coverage to Alabama’s population and industrial centers, enabling local and regional economies to access the state and national marketplaces. 

The report continued with information of the airport’s economic impact, based on pre-COVID statistics: 

“Cullman Regional Airport is considered to be an important asset for both local businesses, as well as for the citizens of Cullman and the surrounding areas. The airport hosts multiple fly-ins throughout the year as well as a full-service restaurant that caters to visiting pilots, passengers and local community members. The airport is well-supported by the community and should remain an active, contributing airport within the Alabama State Airport System for years to come. 

“The services and facilities offered by Cullman Regional-Folsom Field enhance the effectiveness of those who operate at the airport, as well as the productivity of the businesses that utilize it, which can be important for local job attraction and retention. Air Evac Lifeteam 15 maintains a base of operations at the airport, as well as an aircraft maintenance facility for the helicopters in their fleet. Wallace State Community College operates a flight school at the airport, offering the opportunity for a license for a private pilot, instrument-rated pilot or commercial pilot. Other airport users include other ambulance services that use the airport to transport individuals and trauma victims to hospitals in the region, law enforcement operations, military flight training, search and rescue operations, various types of aerial observations, skydiving, as well as other state/federal government agencies including the Tennessee Valley Authority. 

“Beyond its primary function as a transportation resource, Cullman Regional-Folsom Field Airport serves as an economic generator by attracting revenue and investment in the local and regional economies that ultimately result in the creation and sustaining of jobs. There are multiple businesses with area interests that utilize the airport to support their operations and enhance their efficiency including industrial-focused companies, agricultural operators, and several builders of manufactured homes. Leisure visitors to the area also often use the airport to access area recreational events such as archery tournaments, bass fishing tournaments and the Rock the South Festival. It can be said that general aviation aircraft connect businesses and visitors to Cullman as well as Cullman to markets around the world.” 

By the numbers 

As shown in the ALDOT report, Cullman Regional Airport: 

  • Hosts 8,578 visitors annually 
  • Creates $8,960,100 in annual local spending by the airport, local government or aviation visitors 
  • Is directly or indirectly responsible for 141 jobs with an annual payroll of $4,678,100 
  • Generates $770,200 in state and local tax revenue 
  • Drives $13.7 million in annual economic activity 

The airport is the starting point for flights all over the eastern U.S., as far north as the Great Lakes region and as far west as Colorado, though the most common destinations are in the state, including: 

  1. Gulf Shores 
  1. Birmingham 
  1. Montgomery 
  1. Auburn 
  1. Troy 

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W.C. Mann