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Tara Field becoming Atlanta South Regional Airport

Local government leaders moved one step closer to positioning Henry County’s newly-acquired airport as a drawing card for business and economic development.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved changing the name of the former Clayton County Airport at Tara Field, to the Atlanta South Regional Airport.

The name change must be approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), and the Federal Aviation Administration, before it becomes official, said County Manager James C. “Butch” Sanders. The change will help Henry to separate the image of the airport from Clayton County, Sanders added.

“The purchase of the airport always has been about economic development,” said Henry Commission Chairman Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis. “The goal is for our airport to become the preferred choice for aviation in the region. The new name, Atlanta South Regional Airport, brands the airport to help us accomplish that goal, and together with the airport improvements, we believe it will put the county in a better position to attract corporations which require nearby airfields for their operations or executive travel.”

The chairmen of the Boards of Commissioners in Henry and Clayton counties, in August, signed closing contracts approving the sale of the airport. The total sale price was $17.7 million, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paying 84 percent of the money, and Henry agreeing to pay $2.7 million, confirms Julie Hoover-Ernst, county spokesperson.

“Payments have been spread out over three budget years, with the next payment of $1 million not due until September 2012, and the last payment of $403,403 being paid in September of 2013,” Hoover-Ernst said. “The purchase of 542 total acres of land includes the airport, taxiways and contiguous properties, a hangar and 217 acres of adjacent land that had been owned by the Clayton County Water Authority. Combined, the properties have been independently appraised for more than $25 million –– more than nine times what Henry County paid for it.”

Prior to the sale, Clayton County had owned Tara Field, and its 4,500-foot-long runway, since 1994.

The commissioners also signed off on agreements with two engineering firms, who are slated to provide professional services at the airport. The LPA Group, based in Norcross, will be the primary firm to render those services. Commissioners approved an additional arrangement with Croy Engineering, of Marietta. “Croy was given a secondary role, should they be needed, given the large number of projects planned,” Hoover-Ernst said.

She added that the engineers will be focused, initially, on completing updates to the airport’s capital improvements program, layout plan, and an environmental assessment, as well as a runway-justification study, to gauge the proper length of runway for the facility.

“All of these items are laying the groundwork for the runway extension design and construction project, which is expected to be complete by 2014,” Hoover-Ernst said. “Other projects to be completed in conjunction with the runway, include installing an instrument landing system and security fencing around the entire perimeter of the airfield property. All of these projects will be funded almost entirely — 97.5 percent — by GDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration.”

The airport, she said, is expected to begin turning a profit in 2014, following the completion of improvements to the facility.