The state budget plan the N.C. Senate approved early Friday morning included nearly $12 million dollars for the Wilmington International Airport (ILM) over the next two years.
The Senate passed the budget after its third reading on a 32-15 vote just after 3 a.m. Friday. The budget includes funding for airports across the state for fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19, in which ILM was slated to receive nearly $6 million in each year.
The funds are part of a larger $40 million pool of funds earmarked for commercial airports across the state in the fiscal year 2017-18, which starts July 1, and $50 million the following fiscal year.
The budget now goes to the state House for negotiations.
Gary Broughton, deputy director of the Wilmington International Airport, said that if money is approved in the final state budget, the nearly $6 million over the next two years would help support future airport facility improvements and possibly a terminal expansion.
Terminal expansion is a priority for ILM leaders, Broughton said.
“$12 million total over the next two years would come in very handy for capital projects,” Broughton said. “The first thing that comes to my mind is the airport expansion project.”
ILM has proposed a nearly $88 million expansion project that includes partial replacement and expansion of the existing airline passenger terminal, expansion of the terminal aircraft apron and construction of a two-story parking deck on an existing lot.
An Environmental Assessment for the project has been through the public comment period but has not yet been approved, Broughton said. The assessment is still under review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Federal funding for the project is at $33 million, and local funding for the expansion is at $3 million. Broughton said the budget approval could allow for funding from the state. State funding could help fill a $52 million funding gap for the project. Funding, however, must meet approval from the Airport Authority Board, he added.
Looking at the overall potential economic impact an expansion would have on the airport, Broughton said, “as you expand you have the potential of more air carriers and new jobs, so I would say it would definitely have an impact.”
In the 2016 economic impact report
, statewide aviation had $31 billion annual economic impact, created 123,400 airport-related jobs and had $913 million in direct government revenue.
The most recent economic impact study conducted by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation, indicated ILM had a $1.6 billion impact on the region, according to the release.
ILM served 817,896 passengers in 2016, setting a new record
, and passenger counts are trending upwards again in 2017.
Between January and March, the airport has had a total of 88,882 departures and 88,919 arrivals, and has increased each month for that same period last year, according to the most recent airport statistics.
And this week, airport authority board member Donna Girardot released some impact statistics from the Wells Fargo Championship (May 1-7).
Between April 28 and May 8, ILM saw an additional 1,359 passengers, a nearly an 11 percent increase in passengers for that same period in 2016. Air Wilmington had 87 aircraft that arrived and departed from the airport due to the Wells Fargo Championship, four of which were privately owned.
Correction: This version corrects reference to statewide aviation numbers.