Ozark Airport Extension Underway

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The power of perseverance paid off for one wiregrass city. News 4 first told you last Friday the City of Ozark will now get enough money to pay for its airport extension project, but how soon will the city start reaping benefits?

Ozark leaders say the city's economic development is expected to take off once the airport is completed. That should come sooner than expected.

Ozark leaders refused to take no for an answer when they were told they would not be getting any money for the completion of the airport extension project.

The Federal Aviation Administration told Ozark leaders the government has no money left after using money for increasing airport security for the War on Terror and repairing airports from hurricane damage, but two weeks and many letters later the city received word that the Department of Transportation is giving the city more than $2.7 million to pay for its runway extension.

"An inch-thick of sending letters and e-mails that I wrote, at the time, they said if they could find some end of the year money they would help us. If not, we'd be first on their list."

City leaders have approved wiregrass construction to complete the job. Next up is a pre-construction meeting that will discuss all conditions for the project, but even though the project could take until summer 2007 to complete, Ozark leaders say new jobs will be created sooner.

"There's no better jobs in the wiregrass than the jobs that are associated with aviation."

Ozark's Mayor Bob Bunting says the completion of the airport won't only open jobs here at Blackwell Field. He says it will also bring in new businesses to the city, which comes at a crucial time for the city after losing the major clothing manufacturer, Van Heusen.

Bunting said, “Our whole economy is shifting from industries like the textile to major industries like aviation. The high-tech, the simulation. These are kinds of industries that aren't going to pick up and be transported over seas."

The project first began in 2000. City leaders said they hope the new jobs will not only brings in more people to the community, but also keep the younger generation from leaving.

The project is extending the runway to 5,235 feet. That gives the airport enough room to land corporate jets, something they can't do now.