The South Carolina Aviation Association recently held their annual Airports Conference in Myrtle Beach on February 16-18, 2022. At this conference, professionals from around the state met to learn the latest in aviation technology and best management practices, connect with one another and hear what’s upcoming from state and federal agencies and leaders in the field.
Hampton County Administrator, Rose Dobson-Elliott was selected by the Aviation Association to participate in the closing panel discussion "Who needs more hangars?" She was instrumental in recent development at the Hampton County Airport, which is considered a model for hangar construction due to the combination of grant funding utilized to improve the airport facilities and construct the hangars.
Just a few years ago, the airport was overgrown, rarely used, and mostly unknown. Today, the renovated terminal building is staffed seven days per week and two kinds of fuel are available, with consistent aircraft operations and fuel sales increasing with every passing month. Approaches to both runway ends have been cleared, the airfield pavement was recently rejuvenated and remarked. Pilots fly in to Hampton from farther origins as the word spreads about Hampton County’s low fuel prices, great service, and ease of operation.
County Council charged the administrator with improving the airport as part of a larger economic development strategy. "My primary focus during my time on County Council has been economic development, and we have surpassed all expectations for industrial investment in recent years. The improvements at the airport have made a tremendous difference in our ability to attract new business." according to County Councilman, Clay Bishop.
Because Hampton County Airport is not in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) it is not eligible for FAA funding. This required Dobson-Elliott to be creative. The resulting $3 million hangar development was funded through a combination of grants from the USDA and the SC Aeronautics Commission. The airport first welcomed aircraft tenants to its hangars in September 2021. New construction at the site includes two 10-unit t-hangar buildings and two conventional hangars, full parallel taxiway, airfield lighting, a perimeter fence, and a new access road and parking lot to separate automobiles and aircraft.
Dobson-Elliott was selected to participate in the panel at the state-wide conference due to the tremendous success of the hangars. A testament to demand, Hampton's hangars are fully leased, many by pilots based in Hampton County.
She shared her knowledge and experiences with attendees at the conference as an expert in grant funding for rural communities. Dobson-Elliott has worked in local government for thirty-three years, working in Hampton, Jasper, Colleton, Beaufort and Bamberg Counties. Over her career, she has developed, written, managed and overseen more than $50 million in grants.
"There has been a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about the projects at our Airport," said Dobson-Elliott. " By using State funds to match Federal funds, we have been able to complete most of these projects with only a 10% match coming from local funds. That's millions of dollars in outside money being invested in our small community, because there's an understanding that having an airport like this is critical for economic development."