At present, that is not the case. The reason? McCollum lacks a customs inspection facility.
“Up to this point, whenever the aircraft leave here — they can go international from here, so they leave Cobb County airport flying overseas, but when they come back, they have to stop at another airport before they can come home to Cobb County,” Karl Von Hagel, airport manager, tells the MDJ.
But that’s about to change.
The Cobb Commission last week approved a contract with YLH Construction Co. Inc. to erect a customs inspection facility at McCollum.
Plans are for the 29,000-square-foot facility to include a large office, a pre-check area, an inspection area, a post-inspection area, an interview room and a holding cell. The facility will be manned by the U.S. Customs Service, and its construction will be financed by Hawthorne Global Aviation Services, the airport’s fixed-base operator.
Construction of the $800,000 center should start next month and be finished by next April. And those aren’t the only improvements planned there.
McCollum also is due to get a new $3 million, 80-foot-tall control tower by then as well. When combined with the extension of its runway completed two years ago, McCollum will be more attractive than ever for companies that do international business from Cobb.
“As we become a smaller economy globally, if you would, and there’s more companies that have international capabilities — and given the fact that we’ve also coupled this tower with the extended runway that gives the ability to have heavier jets take off with more fuel — the opportunity to service international companies with international needs are met with the combination of the runway and with the customs office,” Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee told the MDJ.
Flying in and out of Cobb is all about convenience and time, according to Von Hegel.
“That’s how they pay for themselves,” he said. “And if you’re not providing an atmosphere where they can be convenient and save time, you put yourself at an economic disadvantage. Up to this point, whenever the aircraft leave here — they can go international from here, so they leave Cobb’s airport flying overseas, but when they come back, they have to stop at another airport before they can come home to Cobb County.”
McCollum has an economic impact on Cobb that was estimated at $112 million in 2012 and is indirectly responsible for supporting 867 jobs, including the 250 daily employees at the airport itself. Only two county staffers work at the county-owned aiport, Von Hegel and a maintenance worker.
Anyone who has ever driven to Hartsfield Jackson International Airport on Atlanta’s south side knows it is not the most relaxing drive, and rarely a “speed-limit” drive. So it makes sense to upgrade Cobb’s airport and thereby make it a more attractive alternative for businesses. And if that translates as expected into more business for McCollum and increased tax revenues for the county, so much the better.