It was another fabulous meeting at the Pirates House this past Friday with good food, great conversations and visiting Rotarians hailing all the way from White Bear Lake, Minnesota.  Our Speaker, Greg Kelley who is also a Rotarian, spoke to the club about the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. For more about Greg's talk, follow the story title link.
Greg, who is the Executive Director of the airport, started by giving a brief overview of the facility.  Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is a mini-city in that it has it's own Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works, Administration, etc.  The airport is run by the Savannah Airport Commission which is a governing body that was created in 1949 by the Georgia State Legislation.  The commission is comprised of a five member board with each member serving a five year term.  Some people wonder why the airport is called an international airport even though there are not any commercial international flights.  The reason is because the airport is a Landings Right Airport meaning that private planes (Gulfstream) are allowed to land from international locations.  There is a Pre-Arranged Custom Office that screens passengers who are flying in and the airport is looking at building a $10 million Customs Facility in anticipation of more international landings.  Another question people have about the airport name is why is Hilton Head included even though the airport is in Georgia?  50% of the traffic that flows through the airport can be contributed to Hilton Head Island.  Tourism and Hilton Head drive airport business.  There are 13 hotels on airport property which are usually around 80% occupancy.  The airport receives nearly $100,000 a year from each hotel.  
Greg briefly touched on the difficulty of attracting airlines to operate flights out of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.  In order to court new business, the airport must offer incentives (cash and non cash).  It took the airport five years to secure Jet Blue to start offering service.  Since then, traffic in the airport has increased by 20%.  The next big "target" is Southwest Airlines.  The economic impact in the surrounding area is significant.  Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is the #2 airport in the State of Georgia and contributes to 20, 383 jobs.