By Lyra Bordelon
A national award and employee cost security were the largest takeaways from the March meeting of the Greenbrier County Airport Authority for Director Brian Belcher.
So far, the three federal stimulus packages have provided essential funds to the Greenbrier Valley Airport. As operations and employee costs remain expensive as ever, the massive reduction in air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic could have left the airport in dire straits.
“In December, when they passed the second round, we [recently] got our funds agreement for that,” Belcher explained. “We got a little over a million. That’s our second one – the one that the president signed on this month], we know we’re going to get something from that, but we don’t know the amount.”
The March bill comes with aid for local governments and businesses, as well as a one-time $1,400 payment to individuals. Added to the previous relief bills, the Greenbrier Valley Airport’s employee costs are under control.
“The first one was over a million, the second one was over a million, and if we get the third one, we project … it could cover our employee costs for five years,” Belcher said. “That would keep us from laying them off, which is what the bill was meant for, keeping people working. Maybe even add some when we get back to the busy season.”
Belcher also noted the funds were restricted, able to be used for employees, costs, benefits, salaries, and utilities, but not general expenses.
Financial job security for airport employees also comes on the heels of a reason to keep as many as possible – an award.
“We, the Greenbrier Valley Airport, won the award for Airport of the Year for Excellence in Training,” said Belcher. “… In one year [we] went from perceived worst to first – [we] got recognized nationally. Super proud of them, they all did a great job. They’re all good airport employees, and I can’t say enough about that.”
After a recommendation from the FAA to conduct more out-of-house training, staff took part in training from the American Association of Airport Executives. Belcher noted a majority of U.S. airports were members of the organization, varying from large center hubs to local airports.
“Last year, when we had [an] inspection, the FAA pointed out that we were training, but we were doing more in house training,” Belcher said. “There was nothing wrong with our training, they just wanted us to have some outside training instead of in-house. We signed up for Digicast [and took classes on] airfield inspection.”
In other business:
– After the closing of The Aviator, the airport’s restaurant space once again has interested parties, with one having toured the facility.
– An FAA investigation into complaints filed against the airport by former airport director Stephen Snyder is still ongoing, with airport staff waiting for a response. Belcher explained, “We answered every question, we’ve been 100 percent cooperative, and we’re waiting to see what they say.”