The history of the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport is rooted in military aviation. A strategic plan for the local airbase suggests a new generation of military aircraft may be in its future.
Courting the growing drone aircraft industry was one recent recommendation from a team of four Master of Business Administration candidates from UNC Pembroke to the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission.
The team, led by business professor Dr. Howard Ling, recommended revitalizing the airport and adjacent industrial park in its 72-page strategic plan.
The team’s strategic plan identified several industry groups as targets for recruitment and provided several steps to help showcase the airport’s assets.
The airport, originally an Air Force airbase, was a glider training facility during World War II, and it is currently home to the Army’s elite Golden Knights skydiving team. In peacetime, the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport became a hub of industry in Scotland County; however, the shifting global economy has hurt employment at the airport during the past decade. Airport commissioners are looking at options for the future.
UNCP students Brian McCormick, Ahn Pham, Jonathan Foley and Weitan Pan proposed a comprehensive plan to the airport commission.
“The Laurinburg-Maxton Airbase is the largest industry park in southeastern North Carolina,” said Foley, who is a 2003 UNCP graduate. “It is located in a region with a workforce of one million. Besides the airport, there is rail access and access to the port of Wilmington.”
“The airbase has 12 major competitors within 80 miles,” said Pan, who is an international student from China. “LMA has the most available acreage and the longest runway.”
Pham, who is from Vietnam, studied workforce and industry statistics, including defense and transportation sectors. The trend of rising transportation costs favors the return of some industries to the U.S., she said.
The Laurinburg Maxton Airport’s proximity to Ft. Bragg was an important theme of the strategic plan. Focusing on the airport’s assets, the plan also targeted the areas of general aviation and education.
“There is potential to coordinate with area community colleges to offer programs at LMA, like aeronautical electronics and maintenance,” said McCormick, a 2010 graduate and UNCP’s student government president.
The strategic plan also suggested putting more emphasis on marketing and public relations. An updated website, promotional videos and press releases could make a case for the airport.
“We reviewed a lot of websites and videos, and there are some that really stood out,” McCormick said. “We’ve included them in the report.”
UNCP’s broadcasting program may be another resource for technical assistance, the team said.
Tommy Parker, chair of the Laurinburg Maxton Airport Commission, thanked the team for its work. “We will follow up with the university’s broadcasting program,” he said. “It’s good to get around the table and brainstorm.”
The airport commission invited Dr. Ling’s MBA class to prepare the report after reading of a similar project. Dr. Ling, who is director of the MBA program, said reaching out to the region to assist in planning is good for the community and good for UNCP’s business students.
“I believe that it will be increasingly important for regional campuses to assume a more direct role in influencing the economic development of the regions they serve,” Dr. Ling said. “UNCP has an opportunity to act as a catalyst for the economic improvement of the 11-county area we serve.
“Graduate programs, such as the MBA, can add value to their curriculum by offering students an opportunity to develop their professional skill sets,” he continued. “In addition to the business practicum, we are working closely with the N.C. Small Business andTechnology Center (SBTDC) to place students who do not have or would like to further develop professional experience in consulting internships with local businesses and organizations.
“There is a clearly defined benefit for organizations who bring in student-led teams for strategicplanning or marketing research,” Dr. Ling said.