The runway and more

September 28, 2012 

New air service will begin flying Middle Georgia residents from our area to the Atlanta airport beginning in December. While past performance is not indicative of future success, it is the most reliable indicator of the future. We can expect this service to fail.

I am a big proponent of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport. As the state looks for a second airport to offset Atlanta, the MGRA is a natural fit. We have the transportation infrastructure, we have a population and businesses that could support an airport, but we do not have unity of purpose in keeping the airport going.

Expanding the runway was in the T-SPLOST that Middle Georgia voters wisely killed. But it could have been in the countywide SPLOST. Expanding that runway would give a great incentive to cargo flights to off load capacity to Middle Georgia from Atlanta. It would also be a boost to businesses considering a home outside Atlanta.

We’ve got the water reservoir everyone else in the state covets. We have rail and road infrastructure. We just need a few thousand more feet of runway.

The last conversation I had on City Council about the airport highlights the problem. We had a fight in a Public Properties Committee meeting because a regional survey showed that, despite the jobs the airport created, many of the people who worked there chose to live in Houston County. Some members of council did not want to spend money on an admitted job creator when the workers would not live in Macon. Luckily they were in the minority.

Bibb County has a chance to re-prioritize the MGRA when we fully consolidate. I encourage our leaders to put it high up the list. It has shown its potential already to be a job creation engine for the region, which does benefit Bibb County. It needs a longer runway for wide-body flights carrying cargo.

This is no field of dreams. It is not a matter of us building it and “they will come.” We already know they will come. We are already attracting business to the airport. We are just limited in what we can offer because of runway constraints.

The city also owns a large tract of vacant land at the airport ready for development and expansion if we attract businesses. It is rare to have that much available land at an airport, complete with rail already there. It is even rarer to have a community unwilling to make the needed investment for expansion.

One area in which the community is investing is our local public schools. But what sort of investment are we getting? We have some Chinese teachers now imported over across the Pacific to help teach Mandarin. The Confucius Institute from Kennesaw State University assists in the program. The Confucius Institute is largely a propaganda arm of the communist Chinese government. The University of Chicago faculty, in 2010, objected to the establishment of a Confucius Institute there because it is “an academically and politically ambiguous initiative sponsored by the government of the People’s Republic of China,”

The faculty at the University of Manitoba objected this year to the Confucius Institute because its materials are controlled by the Chinese government.

I hope our local citizenry will show warmth and hospitality to our Chinese overlords, but I wonder if we should not be educating our children not just on the Chinese language, but on the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the ongoing persecution of churches in China and the fact that it is a despotic government.

Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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