Airport Foes Optimistic

People opposed to the airport relocation plan are hoping to take advantage of the political winds-of-change in Panama City.

Panama City elected a new mayor last month who is against the airport project.

The Panhandle Citizens Coalition is hospital the city’s new mayor, Lauren DeGeorge, will help boost their efforts.

Coalition leader John Hedrick said Friday he is starting a campaign encouraging Panama City and Bay County commissioners to appoint airport members favorable to their cause.

Hedrick says 54 percent of local voters who took part in last year’s Airport Straw Ballot voted against the airport relocation and they deserve to have their position represented on the airport board.

He says it’s time to make the non-binding referendum binding.

“The mayor’s election helped the atmosphere in the area, but a campaign like this needed to be done anyway.

Three Airport Board Members terms expire this year. Jim Campbell has served eight years and needs a unanimous vote from the Panama City Commission to be reappointed.

The Bay County Commission can reappoint Jim Smallwood, who general votes against relocation.

Jimmy Patronis, Jr. can be reappointed by a vote of the Airport Board members themselves.

This all comes after Thursday’s news that Bay County lost its bid for the Airbus plant.

Aviation expert Darryl Jenkins says Bay County lost out mainly because the airport had not yet started construction. Airbus wants to build its plant, with over 1,000 workers next year, and needs a long runway.

The new airport near West Bay won’t be operation for five more years.

Jenkins says he feels once the new airport is operating Bay County will have more opportunity to land some major industries.

Airbus’ parent company agrees. European Aeronautic and Defense Systems, Inc. called Panama City’s proposal quite professional and quite attractive.