The Sky’s The Limit

A small, two-person plane glides into a landing, slowing to a stop at the end of a 34-foot runway and turning off to pull into one of 100 hangars available at Canton’s Cherokee County Airport. The small facility, long a home to recreational aircraft, is about to play a bigger role in the county’s efforts to lure big business.

Working with $34 million, including an unprecedented match to Federal Aviation Authority funds by the county, the airport has embarked on a program, to be completed in three to five years, that will extend the runway to 5,000 feet, add a parallel taxi runway, expand ramps and build 200 more hangars to fully accommodate up to 300 aircraft. The longer runway will mean larger planes – including what the airport authority and county agree will be large corporate jets – have enough room for takeoff and landing.

Says Don Stevens, chairman of the Cherokee County Airport Authority, “There are a lot of CEOs that live in the North Fulton/Cherokee/Forsyth County area. The expansion will attract corporations who have aircraft and want to base in Cherokee. And there is no place to hangar these planes when they come to Atlanta; every other airport is full. It will open the whole northwestern region of Atlanta. When we build it they will come, that’s a given.”

Already county officials are convinced the $15 million pulled from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), championed by commissioner Mike Byrd, is a steal, when the expanded airport brings with it a projected $1.6 billion economic impact on Cherokee County.

“Airport upgrades will prepare the county for future and corporate business,” says Misti Whitfield Martin, executive director of the Development Authority of Cherokee County. “Several of the developing private workplace centers will be located near the airport [off exit 24 from I-575], including The Bluffs of Technology Park at exit 20.”

Stevens notes the expansion will benefit the community’s ability to retain workers, eliminating some of the traffic resulting from heavy commutes, and ease tax burdens on homeowners. “Good corporations can give jobs to those people who live in Cherokee and drive outside to go to work every day. If we have more large companies that come here, we can employ the people living in Cherokee County and that helps the economy of Cherokee County.