REGIONALREPORT WesternFlight patterns
The most recent skirmish in the war over Asheville Regional Airport came in April, when state Rep. Chuck McGrady filed a bill to remove it from the city’s limits. If the General Assembly passes it, Asheville would lose about $190,000 a year of tax revenue. The fighting should have ended a year ago after the legislature took control of the airport from the city and Buncombe County and gave it to an independent regional authority, but the City Council has not complied with an accompanying mandate requiring it to transfer 50 acres near the airport to the state. McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican, hopes the proposed legislation will spur the city to action, but Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the legislator “may be disappointed with our lack of enthusiasm.”
Such scuffling could be obscuring a larger issue. Asheville Regional passenger traffic is falling — down 13% last year compared with 2010. Spokeswoman Tina Kinsey says that was expected, attributing it to national trends such as airline consolidation. (Chicago-based United Airlines and Houston-based Continental Airlines’ merger cost the airport a flight to Houston; Dallas-based Southwest Airlines’ acquisition of Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran Airways cost two more routes.) She is optimistic things will rebound because the number of seats in planes departing Asheville Regional is increasing this summer compared with last — 17.1% more in June and 19.3% in July. “This is what happens at airports. The story is that there has been steady growth over time.”
A different chapter of the story is soaring prices. The average domestic fare from Asheville Regional has increased 15.8% since the first quarter of 2011. Over the same period, the average fare from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, S.C., about an hour’s drive from Asheville, has fallen 6.8%, mostly because low-cost Southwest began service there in March 2011. Tyler Wilcox, director of marketing for Asheville-based Wilcox Travel Inc., says the travel agency gets many requests for flights from Asheville, but travelers usually end up catching cheaper ones from Greenville-Spartanburg, Atlanta or Charlotte. “We give them the numbers,” he says, “and they make their decisions.”
LENOIR — Google will expand its data center, doubling its initial $600 million investment. The Mountain View, Calif.-based technology giant also will purchase more renewable energy from Charlotte-based Duke Energy to power the center. Google plans to hire additional workers but has not specified how many will join its local workforce of about 150.
LENOIR — Regulators closed Parkway Bank, and Greenville, S.C.-based CertusBank acquired its $104.7 million of deposits as well as $99.2 million of its $109.6 million of assets. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will keep the rest for the time being. Parkway had three branches.
BOONE — Appalachian State University Chancellor Ken Peacock will step down as soon as his successor is named. He joined the accounting faculty in 1983 and has led the school for nine years.
HENDERSONVILLE — Pardee Hospital and UNC Health Care System revised their management agreement, extending it from 10 to 25 years. The hospital’s board of directors also will expand from 11 to 15 members.