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Concord Regional Airport Update: A Flight Plan for the Future

Posted by: Cabarrus Economic Development on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 3:20:00 pm

Just a few weeks into his new role as Aviation Director of Concord Regional Airport and Dirk B. Vanderleest is already off to a flying start.

“Working for a city is different than working in the private sector, so I’ve been getting to know the staff and how things are done here,” he said. “What I have learned already is we’re a lean, mean fighting machine.”

JQF: North Carolina’s 5th Largest Airport

Owned and operated by the City of Concord, Concord Regional Airport is a 24-hour, full service Fixed-Base Operator (FBO) located in the heart of North Carolina’s booming I-85 corridor. Open since November 1994, the city built the airport to help boost economic development and accommodate general aviation traffic in the Charlotte region.

A member of the Air Elite network, the airport features 25 acres of ramp space, five large hangars, an FAA 139 certification, air traffic control services and a 7,400-foot runway. It also serves general aviation needs, including corporate, private and government, and serves as the “welcome center” for commercial aviation and charter flights.

Other business services include flight schools, aircraft repair and cleaning, aerial photography and filming, and aircraft sales. Additionally, Concord Regional Airport is located near several attractions, including Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills.

Concord Airport Business Park and RiverOaks Corporate Center are two large master-planned industrial parks in close proximity to the airport. The parks offer more than 400,000 square feet of available space, as well as another 1.6 million square feet of planned space.

In December 2013, Allegiant Air began offering nonstop services from Concord to Orlando, Fla. Additional cities were added soon after, followed by the eagerly anticipated opening of a commercial service terminal in September 2016.

Significant Economic Impact

In 2016, the North Carolina Department of Transportation noted Concord Regional Airport’s economic impact exceeded $160 million annually – a substantial return on the city’s investment.

“When you look at the history of the airport and the growth that has transpired in Concord and the surrounding area, the airport is such a smart economic development component,” Vanderleest said. “And, we’re optimally located because we have easy access to I-85, uncongested and available airspace, and water, sewer and infrastructure already in place.”

Looking Ahead with an Airport Master Plan

Nearly 40 stakeholders from the city, TSA and commercial and general aviation gathered in late September for a kickoff meeting and “visioning session” to discuss the airport’s history, challenges to be addressed and prospective opportunities. Once updated, the Master Plan will serve as a guiding document for the airport’s future needs and development.

Vanderleest noted that as Charlotte-Douglas International Airport grows, there are opportunities to move some of that activity and general aviation business to Concord. “We’ve got some great airports in this area that are very competitive, and we like that – it keeps us on our toes,” he said.

The City of Concord’s beneficial partnership with Allegiant also will continue as both organizations explore future business growth.

“One of the things city leadership is looking forward to is additional markets in the northeast,” he said. “But, like anything else in business, you have to look at what numbers you can quantify for making an investment - whether it’s adding a new city or increasing frequency of destinations.”

Continued Improvements

Since 1991, Concord Regional has received more than $85 million in capital improvement grants, including initial airport construction, a runway extension, apron and taxiway improvements, and the addition of the commercial service terminal.

Several upcoming capital improvements include: runway strengthening, apron and taxi lane rehabilitation and Engineering Material Arrest System to improve runway safety area.

“As we look at the next five years of growth, we’ll continue to make airfield and site improvements,” Vanderleest said. “We’re positioning ourselves to market and grow that, so when companies look at North Carolina this is the area they want to consider.”

Settling In

Now that Vanderleest has made a smooth landing in Cabarrus County, he’s looking forward to settling down with his wife, Anne, a genealogist who is doing volunteer work with the Cabarrus County Library, in their Concord home.

“We really love this area and its convenient location and look forward to traveling to many North Carolina destinations,” he said. “I’ve been in the aviation business for 30 years, so I have a real passion for it. This new position is a great opportunity and fit for us.”

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