“It’s going to help economic development,” county chairman Tim Lee said. “It’s going to help our customer base and make our airport more attractive. Pilots and companies can now fly straight into our airport when coming from any country in which customs is required … which is obviously a positive for all of us.”
Under a deal signed in August, Atlanta Executive Jet Center, one of the fixed-base operators at McCollum, will reimburse the county for all expenses related to the customs service for up to 10 years.
The cost of the customs operation is estimated at $140,000 in the first year of operation, and $120,000 per year thereafter, said airport manager Karl Von Hagel.
“The $140,000 will not begin until the building is put into operation, which would be next spring,” he said.
Atlanta Executive Jet Center must also build a facility that meets the standards of U.S. Customs. The proposed 2,000-square-foot customs building, which will be located on the south apron, is estimated to cost $450,000.
Private and corporate jets flying from outside of the country have not been able to land at McCollum Field because it lacks a customs inspection office.
“Once we get the building constructed and approved by Customs and Border Patrol Agency and are assigned the inspector, then we will be able to handle international incoming flights,” Von Hagel said. “When we look at our economic development role and we look at the world, we are without a doubt becoming a global economy. When you aren’t able to provide the services that a global economy requires, you’re limiting yourselves.”
Von Hagel said a recent economic-impact study found that the airport contributes $112.4 million to the local economy each year, with 842 local jobs dependent on activity conducted at the airport.
There are about 225 aircraft based at McCollum Field, and about 186 takeoffs or landings every day, he said.