Airport Eyes Name Change
Would the Moore County Airport bring in more business under a different name?
The Airport Authority has begun kicking around an idea whose time may have come: persuading the Board of Commissioners to consider rebranding the county-owned public airport -- located in Southern Pines -- to put the more widely recognized word "Pinehurst" in its name.
"If you ask someone from California, say a golfer, or a visitor, where 'Moore County' or 'Southern Pines' is, they won't know," says Michael Nash, vice chairman of the authority. "They always recognize the name 'Pinehurst.'"
Both Nash and authority Chairman John Owen agree that name recognition is important in marketing the airport, with its recently restored seasonal air service from Delta Air Lines. The future of that service is uncertain -- as is the future of Delta.
The idea would be to change the advertised and official public name to something like "Pinehurst-Southern Pines Regional Airport" in hopes that the recognition factor might attract more passengers to use the Delta service, which is now shut down for the winter but is due to go back into operation next year from March through November.
By consensus, the authority at its monthly meeting last Tuesday agreed to broach the subject with the commissioners, possibly as early as a joint work session scheduled for January 2007. At that meeting, the three newly elected commissioners will get to learn more about the county-owned airport asset, which brings revenue both into the county's coffers and more indirectly into local business and municipal treasuries.
The Federal Aviation Administration's locator indicator name used by pilots the world over will remain the same: SOP for Southern Pines. That code is used by pilots mostly for communications between aircraft and the control tower.
Owen, a retired FAA employee himself, said the three-letter indicator names often don't relate directly to the actual geographic location of an airport. The SOP designation probably would stay the same, he said, because FAA rules and international regulations would make a change too cumbersome -- perhaps even impossible.
"The Airport Authority is charged with promoting and prioritizing our air service to the community," said Owen. "It's an economic enhancement to Moore County. We will coordinate with the county and all the municipalities, and we'd like the cooperation of the municipalities.
"It's purely a business decision, designed to aid in marketing the airport and the new Delta service by changing the advertising and promotional name to one where 'Pinehurst' is prominently displayed because of its overwhelming name recognition. Pinehurst as a nationally and internationally recognized name, is a centerpiece in marketing the service directly to our airport."
Owen added that the authority's responsibility is to serve the entire county and its communities, and that includes doing all it can to bring revenue and improve the local economy.
Nash, who served as the authority's first executive director from 1994 to 2000, said he thinks it's a good idea to use the name "Pinehurst" in marketing and advertising.
Owen said potential customers became confused when they clicked on Delta.com to reserve tickets for the local airport as a destination during the recently ended first service season, probably resulting in considerable loss of business.
"We're very much aware of the sensitivity of the community to the airport's name," said Owen. "We respect that. We don't want to cause any turbulence in the community. Our concern is, we're told we lost a lot of Delta reservations last year because the name of our airport had no recognition."
Nash, reviewing the airport's history, said it formerly had the name "Pinehurst-Southern Pines Airport," though it began life as the "Knollwood" Airport when a small airfield was constructed in the early 1920s at the intersection of Pee Dee Road and Midland. It was moved within a few years to its present location on N.C. 22 within the Southern Pines city limits, adjacent to Whispering Pines.
There was a hullabaloo locally when the "Knollwood" name was removed, he said.
In World War II, the nomenclature was ignored when the U.S. Air Force took over the property for training and other military-related activity.
In recent memory since the county acquired the property, it's been the "Moore County Airport."
In another action, the authority agreed to allow Maness to advertise for and hire an assistant to help him with day to day management of the airport.
Maness was hired with the title "airport manager" a couple of years ago, at a salary of $48,000, but the other title of executive director was restored to him a few months ago, along with a pay raise to $65,000.
Maness will be able to focus on promoting Delta service to surrounding communities.
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2472 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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