Nestled in the mountains on the west side of town is the Middlesboro-Bell County Airport which serves as an airport for personal planes and as a hub for area business interactions.
The single runway allows over 16,000 annual operations to take place involving nearly 40 businesses.
Corporate business personnel for local stores, such as Shoe Show, Generations Nursing Home, Roses and Food City, utilize the airport.
Glynna Brown has been flying at the airport for more than 20 years. Brown said she has seen a positive change in the business climate which she attributes to the airport.
“Just yesterday, we had a jet come in with Shoe Show. Corporate stores can hop around from Abington to Tazewell to Middlesboro and Williamsburg to London in a day and you can’t do that when you’re driving,” said Brown.
While large shipments of goods may not come into the local airport, the facility allows business personnel to have interactions and many business relationships that otherwise would not be possible.
Brown said she had a chance to interact with members of the corporate business office for Ryans Steakhouse before they opened a location in Middlesboro. Brown said she believes one reason Ryan’s brought a location to the area was because of the local airport’s accessibility.
Officials say the airport benefits the local economy by offering two different types of fuel for sale to planes flying through the area.
“Sometimes it’s a hassle for a smaller plane to fly into a large airport by a big city with all of that traffic. Here they can fly in, use our facilities, go to a restaurant and they’re back up in the air in just 30 minutes or an hour. That’s convenient and every dollar they spend here is good for us,” said Brown.
Kelsey Gerhardt may be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.