Privatization is not a new concept; even to Briscoe Field. In the mid 1990s the Airport Authority saw the need for an Air Traffic Control Tower. Although a great safety enhancement, Briscoe was not slated by the FAA to receive a tower in the foreseeable future.
Luckily, an FAA program for private towers did exist; it was aptly called the “Contract Tower Program.” County funds were secured for the structure and it was built in short order to the tune of $300K. The tower was then staffed with Air Traffic Controllers paid for by the FAA; an arrangement that continues to this date.
Upon the tower opening, more aircraft were able to safely operate out of our airport, but the benefit didn’t stop there. Gwinnett County instantly saw revenue benefit through more leased property, taxes and fees on new hangars, Ad Valorem on newly based aircraft and increased payments from aircraft fuel flowage fees.
Added to this was an increase in the number of aircraft operations, which proportionally increased Briscoe’s funding from the Federal Airport Improvement Program and the State. All these benefits … from an obscure privatization program that paid off in multiples.
Fast forward to the current debate. An even larger benefit to our citizens lies in scheduled service. The greater opportunity will be discovered when we can open an air route to our community. Both visiting grandparents and multinational corporations will find their way to Gwinnett – along with their needs for local goods. Like our tower, these will only become a reality through privatization.
I am a fan of local talent and responsible decision making. Properly structured, there can be an immediate and positive financial impact to the county budget. Improvements within Gwinnett can start today at the hands of our leadership.
We have the resource and talent to chart our own future in this region. It’s time to take a lesson from our tower and that obscure program that continues to pay off.
Editor's note: In addition to being a member of FlyGwinnettForward.com, Jimmy Norton is an appointee of The Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame (Gubernatorial appointee). He formerly served on the Evermore CID (City appointee) and Gwinnett Airport Authority (County appointee).