CLARKSBURG — In 2019, the North Central West Virginia Airport recorded its highest number of passengers come through its gates.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic slowing down air traffic this year, Airport Director Rick Rock believes the amount of people traveling through the region through the airport will continue to grow.
"Last year was our best year in history — almost 90,000 people went through our doors," Rock said. "We feel like that is going to continue to grow."
In 2019, Rock, alongside West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, unveiled plans to build a new larger, modern terminal at the airport. Rock said the airport received a $10,000 grant through the governor's office to make the project a reality, and with extra funding through the airport, the project should take about three years to complete.
"Our outcome that we are wanting to see is a 100-acre aerospace business park that is directly adjacent to a 7,800-foot runway" Rock said. "Airports are the ports... so it makes that land very valuable to create jobs, and we want to see the region do well, and it will create good opportunities for West Virginians."
Among the businesses that will be a part of the new terminal is Mitsubishi, Rock said, which he believes will be one of the biggest additions to the region of North Central West Virginia because it is a global company with operations around the world.
"We are doing that logistics park to support airport operations," Rock said. "Mitsubishi is going to come in, we want them to feel at home in West Virginia and have them try to expand their operations because we believe this is a great fit for them.
"I think this could be one of the biggest things to happen to North Central West Virginia, Mitsubishi being here. The potential is thousands of jobs."
Harrison and Marion counties jointly own the airport, which is managed by the Benedum Airport Authority. The Authority’s board members are appointed by both the Harrison and Marion County commissions. There are also at-large board members.
Rock said the main airport terminal was constructed in the 1960s, and is not built to handle the amount of traffic the airport is currently moving. The addition of a new terminal will be pivotal in the development of the state, Rock said.
"We just want to make sure, because this is going to serve the region for decades and decades to come, that it is done right and it's something that everyone can be proud of," Rock said.
Among the passengers flying in and out of the Clarksburg Airport are West Virginians themselves, whether they be current residents or transplants in other states. Rock said he wants to make the airport more than just a method of travel, and have it be a place of reunification with the state, so people who have left have more of a reason to return.
"More importantly for me, it's to bring people back to West Virginia," Rock said. "So many people have left, and we want to make it as easy as we can to make it back here. That's the most important thing about our daily service, and our leisure travel, because so many West Virginians now live in Florida or South Carolina. If we can bring them home, that is going to have an economic impact associated with it."