The Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM) is preparing to undergo two years of reorganization and remodeling, modernizing it for the 21st century.
On Sept. 14, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced a series of financial awards to be given as part of the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition. Nine airports received funding to improve the functionality and appearance of their services, including BGM, which was given a gift of $32 million. The first of two parts to the project will involve combining the general aviation and passenger terminals, installing a new, eco-friendly airport canopy and improving many customer-facing facilities. The second part will involve the construction of a new Customs and Border Protection facility.
Mark Heefner, the commissioner of aviation in Broome County, said the airport mainly serves commercial passengers and engages in general aviation, which includes flight instruction, military flights and medical flights. While describing the future developments made possible by the funding, Heefner emphasized the importance of streamlining the travel process for passengers.
“By opening [the airport] up, that’s one of those things that you’re going to affect that people don’t realize that you’re affecting, as far as customer experience,” Heefner said. “It gives people a sense of a little more control, so to speak.”
Heefner said customers have already reported that the airport is easily navigable, though upcoming changes to the airport will further increase the simplicity of its layout. Heefner described how the new layout will aid customer enjoyment of the flying experience.
“So we’re on top of a mountain, right,” Heefner said. “Why wouldn’t you want to see something really neat like that and watch planes go through? It always brings a smile to my face.”
According to Heefner, $5 million in funding from other sources has brought the total cost of the project to $37 million.
The award is the second of two recent developments at BGM, the first being the incorporation of Avelo Airlines, which will provide flights to Orlando, Florida and Fort Myers, Florida starting in Nov. 2022. The airport was previously only served by Delta Airlines, providing daily service to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Heefner expressed optimism that these changes are the start of continuing growth at BGM.
“So the thought process behind this is to build for the future,” Heefner said. “So build for Avelo, build for Delta, build for our future airlines as well. The money is going to go somewhere in the state. We want it here.”
Jason Garnar, the Broome County executive, was present at Hochul’s declaration of the award to BGM. Garnar detailed potential opportunities for economic growth as a result of the oncoming developments to the airport.
“In the short term, the work being done at BGM will create a number of important construction and labor jobs,” Garnar wrote in an email. “Looking more long-term, businesses that are interested in moving here really want the convenience and ease of flying directly into where their company is.”
The executive office of the Broome County government oversees many other operations, including travel and other services to the public. Garnar acknowledged that there was some room for improvement at BGM.
“Airports across the country have been making improvements that enhance passengers’ experience, provide new amenities and make flying more convenient and enjoyable,” Garnar wrote. “BGM’s terminal is almost 60 years old, and while some updates have been made over the years, it needs a major overhaul to bring it on par with other airports in New York state and across the country.”
Several students expressed positive sentiment about the renovation plan.
Jacob Singer, a junior majoring in computer science, has been a passenger with Greater Binghamton when commuting home for break. Singer described the operations at BGM as being effective but limited somewhat by their small scale.
“There’s only a handful of people working there, as far as I know,” Singer said. “It diminishes some efficiency because the same person who was checking your bag is also the person who’s loading the bags, and also the same person who stands next to the scanner while you scan your boarding pass.”
Emily Pyatkovskiy, a junior majoring in psychology, said that although she hadn’t flown at BGM in the past, the updates were encouraging.
“I think now knowing that [the airport] brings me to Florida makes me more likely to use it in the future,” Pyatkovskiy said. “I’ve never seen the original, but I’m really happy that this is where Binghamton is investing its money.”
As a condition of accepting the funds, the project will have to be completed within 24 months of the award date, according to Heefner. Heefner expressed confidence in BGM’s ability to meet this timeframe.
“For a $37 million project to be completed in 24 months, this is going to be an absolute[ly] amazing feat, and we’ve got a team that can do it,” Heefner said.