‘The potential here is remarkable’

Cullman Regional Airport cuts ribbon on refurbished runway 2/20

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Members of the Cullman Regional Airport Board, Cullman County Commission, Cullman City Council, Cullman Economic Development Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, Alabama Department of Transportation and members of the original board who helped build the airport in 1958 were present to cut the ribbon on the refurbished runway 2/20 Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

VINEMONT, Ala. – The ribbon was cut on Cullman Regional Airport’s newly refurbished runway 2/20 Thursday, a little more than a month before the 64th anniversary of the airport’s opening on Nov. 30, 1958. The runway can now support the weight of larger and heavier aircraft, which will make Cullman more accessible to existing and potential future industries.

The project to improve the airport has been ongoing since 2014 when the Airport Layout Plan (ALP), a map with a legend accounting for every square inch of the airport, was developed as a guide to show surveyed data of the airport and what improvements could be made.

Cullman Regional Airport General Manager Ben Harrison gave a list of state and federal funds the airport has received since the plan was put into motion. The funds for runway 2/20 were provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), signed into law in 2021.  

  • 2014- ALP update for $64,000
  • 2015- Taxiway Bravo realignment for $556,000
  • 2016- Taxiway Bravo rehabilitation for $574,000
  • 2017- Taxiway Alpha Phase I for $731,000
  • 2018- Taxiway Alpha Phase II for $499,000
  • 2019-Taxiway Alpha Phase III for $1.4 million
  • 2020- B2 Connector and new guidance signs for $967,000
  • 2021- Runway 2/20, 2/20 light replacements, AWOS (Automated Weather Observation System) replacement- $6.4 million

“Since 2014, since we developed our plan and the way we wanted to take the airport, the state and the federal government have given us $8.9 million which has cost the taxpayers of our community $613,000 to be able to match the grants,” Harrison said. “If you look at that on an average basis, our tax base here, the taxpayers in our community have had to average about $75,000 per year to end up with almost $9 million worth of grants. Please know why that’s so important. Not all airports in this state are able to do that. Not all cities and counties are able to help their airports achieve these grants.”

Harrison said that since the original improvement plans were developed, there have been very few changes along the way. He also gave an update on the next phase of the plan.

“You will see a general aviation apron; this is the last piece of our pavement that has to be reconstructed. We want to rehab some of the terminal apron that we rebuilt a few years ago. The south hangar development – that’s our best chance for growth. We have a site that we purchased several years ago – about 20 acres. We are going to start developing that. We’re looking at potential terminal relocation. We know that one is a little bit out there, but there’s potential there. We want a taxiway rehabilitation. We want to rehabilitate drainage issues under some of the taxiways. Then we want to start the justification for the extension. So, we’re hoping to have that extension in place by the 2027-2028 time frame.”

Some of the businesses based at the airport that will utilize the improvements are Wallace State Flight School, Air Evac Lifeteam, Skydive Alabama, Tennessee Valley Aviation and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

But, according to Frank Farmer of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) every industry in the community will benefit from and utilize the airport.

“The Cullman Regional Airport is a critical part of the state’s infrastructure used to recruit industry and is an economic engine for not only your community, but for the state of Alabama,” said Farmer. “I often hear that the airport is the front door to a community and where thousands each year are going to have their first impressions of your community.”

Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer added, “I think few people realize, in a community, how important an airport is to business and industry. This airport has been very instrumental in this community, having a great reputation for recruiting new industry and expanding the companies that are here…Ben likes to say that commercial airports move people, general aviation airports move business. I’ve heard him say that a number of times, but I’ve seen it here. This airport has certainly been a business driver for us. The Alabama Department of Commerce, the TVA Economic Development group, most site consultants that you’re dealing with now have aviation as one of their top three target industries. I think the potential here is remarkable.”

Members of the Cullman Regional Airport Board, Cullman County Commission, Cullman City Council, Cullman Economic Development Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, ALDOT and members of the original board who helped build the airport in 1958 were present at Thursday’s event.

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