New terminal opens at GTR

Mike Hainsey, right, looks on as the ribbon is cut for the new terminal at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. (Photo by Brad Robertson, SDN)
Daily Times Leader

After 49 years, the Golden Triangle Regional Airport has a second terminal for passengers to enjoy, and its opening was celebrated on Friday by local leaders and airport staff.

Along with other improvements around the airport, including a new section of parking space and a complete renovation of the building's public restrooms, the 5,020-square-foot terminal cost roughly $2.5 million.

GTR Executive Director Mike Hainsey started at the airport 17 years ago. He said he knew the building was special to the area immediately as it helped convince Airbus to come to the Golden Triangle.

Hainsey said once Airbus agreed to settle in next door to the airport, he realized just how much potential for growth GTR brought.

"First check I ever wrote at my job was for $800,000, as we were building the thing there, and I'm thinking, 'I'm not in Kansas anymore,'" Hainsey said.

Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins spoke on Friday about how vital the airport is to selling the Golden Triangle as a worthy place for businesses to locate.

Calling the airport the "centerpiece" for the entire Golden Triangle Industrial Park, Higgins said having GTR in the middle of 7,500 acres where companies could move into made it easier when site consultants for projects came to visit.

“We can pick them up out here, we can show them around out here, we can them the other two counties within 15 minutes," Higgins said. "This is a big, big, big deal.”

Higgins also praised Hainsey's leadership, noting Hainsey was a "fantastic partner" and always worked to be available and fix whatever problems arose.

"You make sure this place is running top shelf," Higgins said.

During his 17-year tenure, Hainsey has continued the trend of GTR paying for itself, a trend that has extended to 35 years of self-reliance.

Growth, Hainsey said, was a huge part of the airport's success and a large reason why the new terminal was opened.

“Last year, in 2019, a record number of passengers walked through this terminal," Hainsey said. "Over 100,000 passengers for the first time in the airport's history used the airport.”

The new terminal adds to the $47 million invested in the airport in the form of infrastructure, Hainsey said.

Despite praise from Higgins and others at Friday's ceremony, Hainsey said the airport's growth was the direct result of booming business in the region.

“We're growing because the industries around us are growing," Hainsey said. "I don't create passengers.”

In addition to the overall increase in passengers, Hainsey said GTR was already 23% above the number of passengers it had in January of 2019.

Currently, all passengers coming through the airport fly east to Atlanta via Delta Airlines, but Hainsey said a west-bound flight has long been on the wish list for the airports.

Hainsey said he was working to acquire such a flight for GTR but had no news about one on Friday.

However, planning for the continued growth of the region and the eventual acquisition of such a flight was prudent, Hainsey said.

“We just want to be able to, one, handle the growth in the near-term and also plan for the long-term," Hainsey said. "If we do get the west-bound service, we have the capacity to handle it.”

Far from just a pragmatic add-on, Hainsey said the new terminal offered new amenities for GTR, such as easier and more access points to allow travelers to charge their devices.

Hainsey said he had grown tired of seeing people unable to be comfortable while charging their devices.

"I hate seeing people sitting up against a post trying to charge their phone," Hainsey said.

Hainsey said the new terminal and continued growth at GTR was a great sign for the future of the Golden Triangle, but he did take issue with one aspect of the terminal's design.

A former pilot in the United States Air Force, Hainsey's office sits on the second floor of GTR and previously overlooked the tarmac. Since the terminal was constructed, however, his view has become obstructed.

“I miss it," Hainsey said. "I'm a pilot. I can hear them, but I don't get to see them.”

Beyond that, Hainsey said he had no complaints and looked forward to what he expected to be a busy year at GTR.