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Airport terminal makes nice first impression

This is the exterior of the new terminal at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport on Newton Road. (July 18, 2013)

This is the exterior of the new terminal at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport on Newton Road. (July 18, 2013)

ALBANY, Ga. -- Of all the words of praise heaped on the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport's new, almost-finished terminal building during a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony Thursday evening, it was the simple turn of phrase by Mayor Dorothy Hubbard that best hit the mark.

"You only get one chance to make a lasting and favorable first impression," Hubbard said.

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Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, right, and Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Director Yvette Aehle see the new airport terminal as one that will make a lasting good first impression on visitors to Albany. (July 18, 2013)

Hubbard and other dignitaries gathered at the airport terminal Thursday to get what was, for most in attendance, a first look at the $10 million structure, which is scheduled to open for public use on July 31. The new terminal will replace the airport's aging McAfee Terminal, which has served airport customers for more than five decades and is scheduled for demolition immediately after the new terminal opens.

"This is an amazing night for me," Airport Director Yvette Aehle said before the ceremony as early arrivers toured the facility. "It's been more than four years since I took that first call (from FAA officials) saying there might be funding for our terminal building. Those were four long years, but now, as we're 12 days away from transitioning into the new building, it seems like they've flown by.

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Guests on Thursday evening tour the concourse of the new terminal building at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport before a dedication ceremony for the building. The $10 million facility will replace the 50-year-old-plus McAfee Terminal building at the airport July 31. (July 18, 2013)

"This facility means a lot to the staff here at the airport, and I believe it's going to mean a lot to the city of Albany."

Workers are completing an elaborate punch list compiled by special inspector David Maschke, but when they finish, air travelers flying in and out of Albany will find themselves in a state-of-the-art facility that shares little in common with the McAfee Terminal. Free wi-fi will be available throughout the facility, and business fliers will have access to a spacious conference area along the terminal concourse.

The terminal features a number of decorative display cases, complete with historic mementos, and passengers will be pleased to find that the facility includes restrooms located beyond security clearance. A permanent food vendor has not been secured yet, but Aehle said airport staff are working to find one.

"This is a truly momentous occasion for the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Aviation Commission and for the city of Albany," Aviation Commission Chairman Dr. Billy Mayher said. "This airport is a gateway into the city, and it will serve as a reminder that this is indeed the Good Life City."

Hubbard said the airport, which has a direct $26 million economic impact on the city of Albany, will serve as an economic development tool as the city aggressively pursues business and industry.

"The people who fly in and out of Albany will realize that we are a progressive, business-friendly city," the mayor said. "I believe this terminal is not only going to be a big plus for Albany and Dougherty County, it's going to boost the entire Southwest Georgia region."

Dr. Charles Gillespie, an Aviation Commission member and pilot, said the logistics and layout of the new facility will win the approval of local fliers.

"There's no cramped feeling like there is at the old terminal," he said. "Everything's easily accessible, clearly marked and just logistically simpler. Plus, the air conditioning and the (speaker system) work, and there are no leaks."