Proposed money for airports will create additional flights for Nashville

An investment of $78.1 million in Tennessee airports is one of the amendments in Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - An investment of $78.1 million in Tennessee airports is one of the amendments in Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget.

Airport officials said the proposed funds will create more economic growth for the state and in Nashville it will help bring more flight options.

“The money that you’re referring to in the supplemental budget will help all of the 78 commercial airports in Tennessee,” Nashville Airport Authority President and CEO Doug Kreulen said. “Our five commercial and the 73 general aviation airports will all receive some portion of that funding. I think the formula is still to be determined.”

Kreulen said Tennessee airports requested about $125 million from the governor and legislators.

“We have been lobbying the administration and the legislators for multiple years now, and we’ve had basically a two-year homework assignment to show them the value,” Kreulen said.

If the money is approved in the governor’s budget, it will allow Nashville International Airport to give passengers more flight options. Kreulen said the amount they receive from the proposed funding will go to infrastructure.

“The new satellite concourse will add eight additional gates, and those eight gates will serve, as our guestimates, about 2.35 million new passengers,” Kreulen said. “As Nashville and Middle Tennessee grows, the airport has to grow to keep up with the volume so we can accept more flights.”

Nashville International Airport is now bigger than its pre-pandemic numbers.

Kreulen said the airport went from an average day before the pandemic of a little over 50,000 people to on April 8, 2020, with 545 people in the airport.

Now there are about 8% more travelers with about 52,000 passengers going through the airport every day.

“The 78 airports generate about $1.12 billion in state and local taxes and this $78 million is a small investment,” Kreulen said.

Nashville’s other airport, John C. Tune, is expected to receive some money too, and for that airport, the money will go a long way too.

Officials said they will be finished building back 100 new hangers this month at John C. Tune Airport. Ninety hangers were destroyed in the March 2020 tornado.

“With this new money that we will possibly receive from the state, we’re going to move into the north section of John Tune and build the taxiway and ramps we need to open up 10 additional parcels of land that will house future corporate hangers on there,” Kreulen said. “It’s an investment that will make us be able to pull more businesses into Middle Tennessee.”

Kreulen said Tennessee airports make up 11% of the GDP in the state and airports have an economic impact of about $40 billion in the state.

“We (Tennessee airports) had asked or submitted a request for $125 million, which is about 10% of the taxes we generate. If the state found a way to invest 10% of that money or returned it to the airports, we can already show them that we would return it 10 times over that amount in economic activity,” Kreulen said. “We’ve been suggesting and working with legislatures so that we stay competitive with the states that neighbor Tennessee.”

Even though the proposed $78.1 million for airports is in the budget, Kreulen said each airport had to say what it would use the money for when it applied for it.

Kreulen said the satellite concourse Nashville International Airport plans to build with its share of the money should begin construction in the next few weeks.

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