Air Force One Museum brings 'significant' economic impact
February 6, 2009By Josh Spilker
In a report commissioned by the North Carolina Aeronautics Council, the Center for Business and Economic Services at University of North Carolina Wilmington estimates an annual impact of $25 million from the proposed Air Force One museum and White House photo gallery.
The museum is being considered for the corner of Martin Luther King Parkway and North Kerr Avenue in a thirty-five acre plot currently owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The museum has been endorsed by the New Hanover County Commissioners and the North Carolina Aeronautics Council, which is a subsidiary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The Air Force One Museum board initially looked at sites in Las Vegas and Myrtle Beach and is now primarily interested in Wilmington, according to Howie Franklin, the director of the Brunswick County Airport. The group behind the Air Force One museum is a hodgepodge of former Air Force One staff and media who reside across the United States. Franklin is the director of the Brunswick County Airport and a former Air Force One crew member, serving under Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton.
Franklin has emerged as the local spokesperson for the board and said that the board wants a destination with high tourist volume.
“I think any place that has traffic, has tourism is under consideration,” Franklin said.
New Hanover County ranked eighth in North Carolina for tourism expenditures in 2007, spending about $426 million. The Air Force One Museum and White House Photo Gallery would enhance the mix of sites in Wilmington to the tourist interested in history.
“We are a historic-type destination, we have everything from revolutionary war history to World War II and it would fit in with the offerings that we have,” said Kim Hufham, president of the Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
After Franklin learned of the group’s interest in Wilmington, he turned it over to the North Carolina Aeronautics Council, which commissioned the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Business and Economic Services to conduct an economic impact study. The study estimated a five-year construction period at an impact of approximately $21 million dollars per year for the three county area.
That figure accounts for job creation, property income and tax rates. The ongoing economic impact from museum operations is estimated at $25 million dollars per year, which includes close to $5 million in wages for 220 local jobs.
The report did not provide estimated attendance figures.
According to Bill Williams, the director of the North Carolina division of aviation, the project depends on the land currently owned by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
A site has been identified and is currently DOT property. It will be a decision by the DOT to make that property available. Not the division of aviation, but the department,” Williams said. “The most important thing is that we are in support of it in our state, and are excited about the prospects.”
Williams said that a decision on the land could be made within in the month, after the next Department of Transportation’s February meeting.
Franklin is now trying to raise money for the project, estimating that he needs about $10 million to get it started, with about $34 million to develop the land. Franklin said the museum would be “non-profit” and that’s important to recognize the historical importance of these planes.
“In the Air Force, they kind of get lost in the bureaucracy,” Franklin said.