Julia Roberts Goad
PIKEVILLE, Ky. — The Pikeville/Pike County Airport came a step closer to commercial air service with the announcement of $1 million in grants from the Kentucky Department for Local Government from multi-county coal severance tax money.
The grant will be awarded once an airline is selected to provide commercial air service to the airport (PBX).
In addition, a Federal Small Aviation Grant granted the Pikeville City Commission received in 2011 was granted an extension of the $750,000 grant that was received for commercial air service last year, bringing the total of funds for the airport to $1.75 million.
Two commercial airlines have expressed interest in serving PBX, although both companies have remained anonymous.
Recruiting an airline to provide commercial service is one of the purpose of the grant. One of the methods of recruiting an airline is a revenue stream package. An airline doing business in the county would set a financial goal for each month. If the company falls short, money from the revenue guarantee package would be used to bring the amount of money the airline makes up to the monthly goal. The money would be given to the airline on a monthly basis so the company would not incur financial losses during the first two years of operation.
Luke Schmidt of LB Schmidt Associates, a consulting company which has been working with the City of Pikeville and the East Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on the airport project, said the revenue stream package is essential to an airline.
“It is expensive to for an airline to start a new route,” Schmidt said. “They have to invest in new planes, employees, equipment. If they lose too much money too soon, they aren’t going to stay. We need to make it profitable sooner rather than later.”
The grant was obtained after garnering support from the Floyd and Pike Counties Fiscal Courts.
However, the support of the Pike Court was not unanimous vote. Two of the six magistrates on the Court were not in favor of asking for coal severance tax money for the airport. Both Chris Harris and Jeff Anderson said they felt the airport would not be profitable. After initially refusing to throw his support behind the request for coal severance funds, Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford did vote in favor of the request.
Millions of dollars have already been used in the development of PBX, Pikeville City Manage Donovan Blackburn said, including $3,383,971 to complete the parallel taxiway alongside the airport’s primary runway, $330,513 in improvements and repairs to the primary runway, 679,000 for a new nine-aircraft T-hangar and $109,304 for the installation of a new Automated Weather Observation System.
Jared Arnette, President of the East Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said the airport is the result of groups working together.
“This is the best example I have ever seen of teamwork,” Arnette said. “Our businesses spoke in one voice. The airport is part of the vision of economic development, they see value of a commercial airport. It is a milestone we have reached. In a time when people are concerned with energy, it is important to step up and say we are creating opportunity.”