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Airport staff has been making lots of reservations

The local economy is about to turn green -- Masters green.

Some of it, in fact, is even being attributed to Tiger Woods returning to the famed Augusta National Golf Club in an attempt to rekindle his great golf success, including vying for his coveted fifth green jacket.

It's time once again for The Masters, which features the greatest professional golfers in the world.

With the big tournament on the horizon, it means enormous bucks for a variety of businesses throughout the Augusta area, including Thomson and McDuffie County.

Locally, the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport is among one of the busiest operations this time of the year.

Dozens of bright aircraft of all kinds will be flying in and out of the local airport for several days while the big golf tournament is being played less than 30 miles away off Washington Road in Augusta. It is considered the busiest time of the year at the airport.

The Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport is managed by Spirit Aviation Inc. The manager of the local operation is Keith Bounds, who serves as president of the same aviation firm.

"The Masters is definitely our busiest time of the year," Mr. Bounds said.

Last year, however, the airport sustained about a 50 percent loss in the business they normally generate during Masters' week, Mr. Bounds said.

He attributed the decline to the bad economy, which began spiraling downward to the local level just before spring.

"We're hopeful that business is going to be as good this year as it was in 2007 and 2008," said Mr. Bounds, noting that since the announcement that Mr. Woods was going to be playing in The Masters that the local airport has received many telephone calls.

"We've had lots of calls since that announcement from people wanting slot times."

Mr. Bounds said the fact that Mr. Woods has decided to return to golf "has a lot to do with the calls we've been getting from people wanting to fly into our airport."

It's great news for Mr. Bounds from a business perspective and great news for Thomson and McDuffie County, because it's another way to generate additional sales tax money from visitors staying shopping in the area and staying at local motels and hotels.

Sales tax revenues have been down in both the city and county for the past several months, according to figures released by officials of the county finance department.

However, those slots are controlled by officials with the Federal Aviation Administration.

At the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport, for example, FAA officials will allow only four slots per hour -- one every 15 minutes.

"It's not like it is at Bush Field in Augusta, where they have a tower and manage more air traffic," said Mr. Bounds.

He pointed out that his staff has been busy making lots of reservations for vehicles, as well as hotels for guests expected to fly into the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport.

Web posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010

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