North Little Rock airport's expansion bid leaner

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

The North Little Rock Airport wants to remain competitive with newer small airports in the region, but fiscal reality is forcing it to scale back its ambitions.

The airport has been looking to find a way to expand its terminal to include office space, a greeting area and a conference room to better compete for business with newly built airports in Conway and Saline County.

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field has invested millions of dollars into upgrading its general aviation areas.

North Little Rock would like to retain the 165 small private and business planes that are based there, including eight jets, said Clay Rogers, the manager for the 673-acre facility.

"We want to maintain facilities that would be competitive with surrounding airports in the metro area because of the airports getting new facilities and Little Rock putting a lot of money into theirs," he said.

"We just want to stay competitive. That makes us attractive to potential corporate aircraft. If you're not moving forward, you're moving backward."

Initial plans were to build a new terminal, complete with a hangar and space for a restaurant. But the $3.6 million price tag was too high.

"That was all going to cost too much money," Rogers said at a Thursday meeting of the North Little Rock Airport Commission. "The city doesn't have it, the state doesn't have it, to fund the whole thing. I've scaled it back to a more realistic amount."

Now, the expansion likely will include a general aviation services company, called a fixed-base operator, that would employ line personnel to help park arriving aircraft, load or unload them, and refuel them.

"It still looks great," Rogers said. "It still looks like a nice FBO facility we would be proud to have and proud to show off."

The project, though scaled back, still isn't a slam dunk.

[EMAIL UPDATES: Get free breaking news alerts, daily newsletters with top headlines delivered to your inbox]

Rogers said he is putting together a proposal to submit to the North Little Rock City Council for a formal request for the money, which could be realized as part of a bond proposal or loan. A loan spread out over 10 years would require the city to pay $136,800 annually, assuming a 4.5 percent interest rate, he said. Over 15 years, the city would have to pay about $100,000 annually.

Rogers said he hopes to get the proposal before the City Council "in the next month or so."

Money is tight at the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics, too.

"They are not funding a whole lot of projects right now," Rogers said. "I still think we have a good shot at $600,000 when the city is contributing a million, a million point two."

The request comes on top of a $1 million runway lighting rehabilitation that the Federal Aviation Administration funded, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that the airport has received from the state Aeronautics Department in recent years.

"The city hasn't done anything significant in a while," Rogers said. "It still is a project that I think is worthwhile that I think will be great for the airport."

Business on 02/17/2017