Ben Dorminey, a consultant hired by the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission, gives his report to the board at its meeting Monday.
ALBANY -- Don't go trying to squeeze the word "international" into the name of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport just yet.
A consultant hired by the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission to research if pursuit by the airport of a "user fee port-of-entry" designation from the federal government was feasible, told commissioners that while it may be feasible, it likely wouldn't be profitable.
Don Dorminy was hired by the Aviation Commission months ago to travel to Florida and meet with officials at airports that bore the designation in the Sunshine State and bring back data that could help the commission determine whether it was something it would like to pursue.
Georgia currently has no airports that are user-fee ports-of-entry -- the bureaucratic term for airports that have international flight capability but on a smaller scale than a major international airport like Hartsfield Jackson in Atlanta.
After visiting St. Augustine and Daytona, Dorminey said that converting the airport to one that could meet the requirements of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol would be costly but likely could be modified if pursued.
"There are some things they won't budge on, but in terms of the overall size of the building, they could be flexible, which would reduce cost," Dorminey said.
"Question is, is it profitable?" Dorminey said. He concluded, "No, it's not."
Dorminey said that the two airports he visited catered mostly to charter flights between mainland Florida and the Caribbean islands, and that they had relatively little data to support contentions made earlier that an international cargo airport in Southwest Georgia would be beneficial to produce growers and farmers in the area who export their products globally.
That's why Dorminey asked to be given the go-ahead for phase II of his consultation, which would allow for a market analysis and interviews with businesses and growers within 75 miles of the city to determine whether there would be a big enough market to sustain the operations.
At the end of the discussion, it appeared that financial restraints had put the brakes on the project -- at least temporarily.
Commissioner Dr. Charles Gillespie made a motion that the matter be put on the commission's August meeting agenda so the group "could consider the outcome of the T-SPLOST vote" and act accordingly.
T-SPLOST is a reference to a July 31 public vote which will determine whether residents of Southwest Georgia add another 1 percent sales tax for transportation improvements to the area for the next decade.
Airport Director Yvette Aehle said that the only feasible way to meet Customs and Border Patrol's building requirements would be to possibly include the specifications in a project that has already been put on the referendum -- a new building for the airport's fixed-base operator.
"The only way the infrastructure improvements that are needed to support this could be done would be if the T-SPLOST passes," Aehle said. "There's just not any more money coming from FAA for a while, and the city itself can't fund it."