By Paul Gable
A recent grant announcement in the amount of $3.7 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to the International Technology and Aerospace Park (ITAP) at Myrtle Beach International Airport is a symptom of the greater problems affecting federal government spending.
While ballyhooed locally as a great aid to luring businesses to the now vacant facility, it’s really nothing more than pork barrel spending.
The 400 acre site, and plans to build this grand aerospace park, grew out of the failed West Side Terminal project at Myrtle Beach International.
The land was originally purchased, with a $12 million grant from the FAA, to be the site of the airport’s new west side terminal.
However, when the site was being cleared for the terminal project, it was discovered the subsoil was mostly gumbo. This discovery led to an increase in site preparation work from the original $6 million estimate to an estimate of $66 million just to prepare the site for construction of the terminal.
The West Side Terminal project failed for many reasons. One of those was the excessive cost of construction partially due to this $60 million addition in site preparation.
When the project was cancelled, the county airport department, with the aid of county council, announced the site would be used to build an aerospace park, which would draw thousands of jobs to the local area.
Actually what the county was doing was creating a diversion so that it would not have to reimburse the federal government the $12 million purchase price of the land.
To make this more believable, the county, city of Myrtle Beach and Santee Cooper added an approximately $4 million more into the site bringing roads, signage and utilities to the site.
Now we are getting another $3.7 million to build a taxiway and apron to the site, even though there are currently no prospects of any aerospace or related business desiring to locate at the park.
This is just more of the ‘if you build it they will come’ philosophy so prevalent at the airport with federal money.
I’m sure the justification of our federal representatives in Washington is if we don’t take the money, some other airport will.
And that’s the problem with our federal government. It’s a giant money creating machine that sinks ever deeper into debt.
Rather than proposing reasonable projects to federal agencies for aid in funding, the feds create this giant pot of money everyone fights over to get their share, for any project for which they can find an excuse, whether it is needed or not.
Remember, Myrtle Beach International Airport has a fleet of snow plows ready for that next big snowstorm. The county doesn’t have snowplows for the roads, but it will sure be able to clean off the airport runway and strand any passengers that might come in the new terminal building.
There’s an old saying “watch your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves.”
In federal parlance that is probably translated as ‘watch your millions and your trillions will take care of themselves’.
Obviously nobody in Washington is bothering to even attempt to watch the millions as long as these types of boondoggles continue.