LaGrange Callaway Airport
Better by the day
Business View Magazine interviews Dexter Wells, Airport Manager at the LaGrange Callaway Airport, as part of our series on regional American airports.
The LaGrange Callaway Airport is a public-use, general and business aviation airport located three miles southwest of the City of LaGrange, in Troup County, Georgia, and 50 miles south of Atlanta. “Lagrange Callaway opened in 1929 as a grass landing strip,” explains Airport Manager, Dexter Wells. “During World War II, it was upgraded to a typical three-runway, A design. After the war, it was owned by the Troup County Board of Commissioners and the City of LaGrange. In 2015, that changed when the Airport became a department of Troup County. It is currently operated by the County and governed by the Board of Commissioners. We have two full time and three part-time employees and are actively working on growth.”
At the time the County took over, LaGrange Callaway had 17,100 aircraft operations per year, averaging 46 per day – 99 per cent general aviation and 1 per cent military. 62 aircraft were then based at the airport – 82 per cent single-engine, 10 per cent multi-engine, two per cent jet, and six per cent glide. Today, there are 65 aircraft based on the field, with a waiting list of 15 for hangars. “I would say that, right now, 20 per cent of our clients are business and 80 per cent is recreational,” says Wells, “And so, the biggest thing that we are working on is planning for the future.”
The good news is that the LaGrange Callaway Airport is right in the middle of the Georgia International Business Park (GIBP), an established, 10,000-acre business park that is one of the largest business parks in the southeast. The GIBP is Georgia’s Premier Sustainable Business Community and home to over 41 international companies from 18 different countries. The GIBP has great access to the airport, rail, Interstate 85, and all of the criteria in place for its own expansion, including infrastructure and utility availability, environmental reviews, and appropriate zoning and entitlement.
“We have room to accommodate any business that might want to come into LaGrange,” Wells notes. “We have space for proposed hangars, proposed cargo areas for FedEx or Amazon, and then, on the other end of the field, we are looking at a future corporate business park housing corporate jets, GoJets, and the like. And then the GA aircraft will be around the terminal in the middle. So we are primed to expand and grow at a rapid pace over the next decade. We have a great working relationship with the Development Authority of LaGrange, so we are here to promote business in the County and enable it to be the best it can be. We serve as the front door for businesses coming into the community. We have a gorgeous Fixed Base Operator and are ready for people to come in and do business with us.”
“Our master plan highlights the construction of hangars over the next five years,” Wells continues. “We recently constructed a corporate hangar in 2017, and I am working, currently, on the design of another corporate hangar and some more T-hangars. We have to go to the County each year with a budget proposal and see what is possible. But there are a lot of other infrastructure changes that we are working on. Currently, we are working on a runway expansion of 900 feet to make our main runway 6,500 feet, and we are moving from medium to high-intensity lighting on that runway. We are doing the pre-bid work on installing a new Instrument Landing System (ILS) and a new beacon for the Airport. Then, there are plans to rehabilitate all the taxiway lighting, to design and replace the fuel facility, to design and overlay all of the apron and taxiways – and again, more hangar construction. We have asked for just over $14 million to do this work. This money will come from the county, the State, and FAA grants.”
Before the county took over the Airport, its economic impact on the local area was estimated at approximately $9 million, annually. As the Airport continues to grow, that amount should rise along with it. “We have something exclusive to offer,” Wells states. “I suppose one of our biggest assets is that we have 750 acres which are not developed, and so, that is where our primary focus is. Also, we are very well-situated in between Atlanta, Columbus, Montgomery, and Birmingham.”
Adding to those advantages are beautiful weather that amounts to over 300 perfect flying days each year; a Fixed Base Operator that offers competitive fuel prices; an Aircraft Maintenance Facility operated by Southside Aviation; an aircraft rental and flight school run by the Flying Club and Airventures; as well as a local Civil Air Patrol Squadron. Everything is in place for a period of sustained growth.
“We are in the very early stages of building out this Airport, and we are growing every day in terms of the business traffic,” Wells concludes. “So now, it is about promoting and getting people in here. We have so much to offer and it just keeps getting better.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: LaGrange Callaway Airport
WHAT: A public-use, general and business aviation airport
WHERE: three miles southwest of the City of LaGrange, in Troup County, Georgia