Varney celebrates Mingo County Air Transportation Park grand ope - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Varney celebrates Mingo County Air Transportation Park grand opening

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The grand opening of the Mingo County Air Transportation Park was celebrated Friday, with several officials joining in the occasion.

The air park was created through public and private partnerships at the federal, state and local levels, according to Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and the facility will join in the general aviation industry, which contributed $76.5 billion to the nation's economy in 2009.

"When we invest in Mingo Countians, we invest in America," Rahall said in a news release. "By leveling the nation's economic playing field, the entire county prospers."

Rahall is the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and he said during the grand opening that the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority should be a model for the nation.

"These small airports are large, local lifelines serving everything from law enforcement and military matters to emergency medical transport," Rahall said in a news release. "Business and industry and tourism depend on them."

The new park replaces the older Mingo County Airport in Williamson, according to information from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and it also provides a safety upgrade.

The new airport has a 7,000-foot runway, new lighting and technology.

Rahall said Friday the most recent budget passed by the House of Representatives, known as the Ryan budget, would cut $108 million in aviation funds and $1.5 billion in highway funds for West Virginians, which would almost assuredly end  the Mingo park with its plans for a terminal building, fueling station and hangars.

Rockefeller also spoke Friday in Varney, saying his entire Senate career has been spent trying to improve West Virginia's air transportation network because he has seen the local economic impact that can come from airports.

"More than that, they are a source of pride in the community and open rural areas up to the world," Rockefeller said in a news release.

Rockefeller is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He said in a news release the Mingo County Air Transportation Park started with $300,000 in planning and environmental grants he helped secure from 2001-2004. Construction grants from 2007-2010 totaled $8.3 million, according to information from Rockefeller's office.