Groundbreaking ceremony held for new control tower at airport

(NC Department of Transportation photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Onslow County - A groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday at the Albert J. Ellis Airport in Richlands for its first air traffic control tower.

A $2.4 million grant awarded by the N.C. Department of Transportation's Division of Aviation made it all possible. Serving over 300,000 passengers per year, Ellis Airport is one of the busiest commercial airports in the United States without its own tower, according to the NCDOT.

The tower is estimated to be completed by the end of 2018 at a total cost of $4.5 million. The state money comes from the Commercial Airports Fund. It was administered in two separate grants, one on May 11, 2016 and the other on November 9, 2017.

"Our airports return more than $9 in state and local tax revenues for every $1 the state invests and major projects like this new ATC tower will benefit the region for decades to come," said Division of Aviation Airport Development Manager Jon Arnold in a press release.

According to the NCDOT, Ellis Airport contributes over $237 million and 370 jobs to the economy of Jacksonville and Onslow County, as well as $4.9 million in state and local tax dollars. Recent estimates put the economic impact of North Carolina's entire airport system at more than $31 billion a year. Airports support more than 123,000 jobs across the state, and return more than $910 million annually to state and local governments in taxes.

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