Opinion: Daily Journal

Changing name of airport isn’t necessary, so why pay for it?

The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority certainly had good intentions when it voted to change the airport’s name late last year. It had some good reasons, as well.

But it wasn’t such a good idea.

The airport, which straddles the city limits of Greensboro and High Point, would now and forever more be called Central North Carolina International Airport, the authority announced.

“Changing the name of the airport is a big step. We do not take that lightly,” said Airport Authority Chairman Steve Showfety, according to an airport news release. “But it is an important step. We need a brand that is recognized around the world, because we are competing around the world.”

The name, Showfety said, focuses on its central location in the state and on the East Coast. Authority members, said the release, thought moving that benefit to the fore would help efforts toward economic development.

“This airport is in an excellent position to compete in the global marketplace. We have 1,000 acres ready for development, we have built a taxiway bridge to provide access to that land, we have an unparalleled highway system around the airport, we have global industry located at our airport — but our brand is not recognized in the global marketplace,” Showfety said.

The airport is home to some 50 companies, including the sprawling world headquarters for Honda Aircraft Co., and a FedEx hub. PTI, the airport website says, is part of a 4,000-acre campus, with some 5,000 workers.

PTI is owned and operated by the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority. PTI is also convenient to Winston-Salem with access to Interstates 40, 85, 73, and 74. Well more than 800,000 passengers fly in and out of PTI each year, and those numbers are increasing.

Board members discussed the name change with elected officials, economic development professionals, and regional business leaders, Showfety said.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The community appears to be ready for a change.”

Not so much.

Residents started a petition against the name change and collected more than 6,000 signatures.

“There has been a major outpouring on social media that there is nothing wrong with the current name and that the new name was made with haste and not considering the thoughts of the community,” states the petition on change.org

The airport’s name won’t change, at least for a while, though it probably will eventually.

The authority will study the issue further and seek public input. The parameters of this work — the cost, whether the airport will hire consultants, marketers, etc. — are hazy at best.

“The authority recognizes the public also has strong opinions on the airport’s name,” a news release said. “The authority appreciates the public response and will consider public input as we move forward with the help of professionals during the branding process.”

PTI spokeswoman Stephanie Freeman told me in an email: “We haven’t established the full scope of work, and the budget will be prepared after that is complete. The cost will be paid from Airport Authority operating revenues.”

The airport will get $14 million from the state’s General Fund — i.e., taxpayers — over the next two years. It, too, gets money from the Federal Aviation Authority for capital improvements. Airlines, though, are largely self-sufficient, getting money, for example, from rent, usage fees, parking, concessions, and advertising.

PTI is convenient and efficient. Access in an out is excellent and parking is abundant.

It will continue to grow, regardless of its name.

“Currently,” the airport says in a news release, “the aerospace companies based at the airport campus would collectively be the eighth largest employer on the Triad Business Journal’s Book of Lists. Our goal is to lead that list. The average wage for the 5,000 plus employees on the airport campus is 33 percent higher than the region’s average household income. So these are not just jobs, but VERY GOOD jobs.”

So, why take on the expense, which won’t be small, of rebranding and marketing the new name? Central North Carolina International Airport doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and the geographic designation is nonsensical and not even accurate. Technically, the airport, according to that name, would be closer to Sanford. After all, Sanford is home to “Central” Carolina Community College.

Why even study the issue at all, again taking on any new costs that might entail?

Here’s PTI’s answer:.

“We have learned that even after 30 years of marketing, the Piedmont Triad brand is not well recognized outside this region. The airport needs a brand that capitalizes on North Carolina’s positive image and the airport’s central location.”

I’m not buying it. Few people, at least publicly, seemingly are.

As the petition says, “The name is not broken, why change it?”

And why pay for it?



  • caesar

    Why should taxpayers be stuck paying to have someone’s name on bridges and roads?

  • Billy Jones

    Follow the money. Who stands to gain personally from a name change?

    From your article: “PTI spokeswoman Stephanie Freeman told
    me in an email: “We haven’t established the full scope of work, and the
    budget will be prepared after that is complete. The cost will be paid
    from Airport Authority operating revenues.”

    Does that include things like highway signage? Or will Cities and Counties be stuck with the bill?

    Finally, if Airport Authority operating revenues are so flush with cash they can afford the luxury of experimenting with a name change that has all the failings of the current name with more added, then perhaps PTI is making more money than they know what to do with.

  • PopperlinRosebud

    Changing the name is unnecessary and won’t bring in any business that wouldn’t come without a name change. Somebody or somebodies at PTI had too much time on their hands, got bored, and came up with a flashy new idea that would give him / them something to do for the next few years. Waste of money and an insult to the NC Piedmont community. On top of all that, the proposed name is horrendous and boring. The Piedmont may not be well-known outside of NC, but that’s perfectly ok. This is our State, and our history and geography is an important part of who we are. Although the Piedmont is relatively boring, it’s a lot more interesting and unique than the identifier “Central.” Every state has a “central,” but only one state has the Piedmont.

    Lastly, it’s sad these decision makers actually think the name change will have an impact. Do they think someone choosing between NC airports will not take a few seconds to see exactly where on a map PTI is located? If you were flying to England or Germany or France, wouldn’t you figure out what airport was closest to your travel destination? The rebranding team at PTI seems to think it works the other way around, as if people will now choose to do business or vacation in Greensboro because the airport has a more geographically descriptive name.