The airport invited the public, along with numerous dignitaries, to visit its terminal and inspect the facelift that took place.
Cox said the renovations — the first since the airport opened 26 years ago — were important in promoting the region to outside visitors.
“For a lot of people, this is their first impression of Eastern Kentucky, and we want them to have a good impression,” Cox said. “Eastern Kentucky has to fight enough negative stereotypes, as it is.”
The terminal now sports new furniture, flooring, paint and ceiling tiles. The bathrooms have been completely redone, and a fireplace has been added to greet visitors with a warmth that extends beyond room temperature.
But it is the outside of the building for which Cox shows the most pride. Formerly a drab stucco, the outside has been covered in rock.
All of the improvements were paid for with coal severance tax dollars. Floyd and Martin counties chipped in $50,000 in coal money each.
Floyd County Judge-Executive R.D. “Doc” Marshall, who attended the open house and took advantage of a plane ride over the region, said it was important to support the airport, because of how lucrative such facilities are to the communities they serve.
“The thing I am most proud about is that this is a link for economic development, which will entice corporations to come into our region ...” Marshall said. “The first question we’re asked [by companies considering locating in the area] is, ‘What size airport do you have?’”
Coupled with last year’s extension of the airport’s runway to 5,000 feet, Marshall said he believes the improvements at Big Sandy portend good news on the horizon.
“We’re sitting on the bubble for some good things to happen to us,” Marshall said.
State Rep. Hubert Collins, who was also on hand for the festivities, agrees that the airport is pivotal to the region’s economic future.
“They did a survey across the state and found, where you find an airport, you find economic development,” Collins said. “So, hopefully, that will be incentive enough for people to support the airport.”