Sept. 18, 2017

For more than two decades, the Jackson Airport (4LA3) in Jackson, LA sat vacant, with a few hangars in “extreme disrepair,” no airport lighting and vegetation in the approach zones. It was considered derelict until 2009, when East Feliciana Parish Economic Development District (EFPEDD) board member Chris Ferguson asked if the airport might be the parish’s key to improved economic development.

Today, the airport has been vastly improved, and is now known as Feliciana Airpark (LA3) after reopening in 2013.

“The whole thing really happened by accident,” Thomas said. “The airport was sitting under our nose and we never saw it. We put it on the EFPEDD agenda and started the process to first determine what would need to be done to reopen it, and then what it would take to bring more GA [general aviation] traffic to our area.”

Improvements made at Feliciana Airpark include a 600-gallon fueling system installed in 2014, and in July 2016, a coordinated project between the airpark, the FAA, the Louisiana National Guard and Louisiana DOT-Aviation allowed excavation of the north ramp area for more transient parking. But the improvement that Thomas is most proud of was the Aviation Business Development Complex (ABDC) valued at $200,000 and completed in August 2015.

“We don’t have rail or water access here,” Thomas said, “but we do have an airport, and a growing GA airport is a great way to develop much-needed local jobs. The low overhead of the ABDC complex allowed two aviation start-ups – AutoGyro of Louisiana and MAK Heli Services – to open their businesses here and then move to larger facilities due to their growth. We are actively looking for our next aviation startup success story to move into the ABDC.”

Feliciana Airpark does not look upon tenants as customers but as partners, explained Thomas.

“Any surplus funds generated by operations and the ABDC go toward improving the airport,” he said. “No salaries are paid, and all labor is being provided ‘in kind’ by local people who see the value of a healthy GA airport in terms of economic development. There is a desperate need in Louisiana for GA infrastructure for both pilots and GA businesses, and the demand is growing.”