CEO Barry Harrison Featured in Arkansas Business on the Economic Impact of the Arkansas Aeroplex

May 03, 2024
Arkansas Business Staff

What is your ultimate vision for the Aeroplex?

The Arkansas Aeroplex has been an economic driver for Mississippi County for nearly 40 years. We have a unique blend of resources that allow for continued growth as a large transportation and distribution center, including an 11,600-foot runway, proximity to Interstate 55 and thousands of available acres in the middle of the United States. Combine those assets with limited traffic in our airspace, and we have ongoing interest from multiple e-commerce and distribution companies. We host military aircraft for training exercises and refueling stops, allowing us to stay top-of-mind should our facility be needed for longer-term national defense operations.

How has the Aeroplex helped the region’s economic development?

The authority was formed in 1987 and has since been responsible for the management and redevelopment of the former Eaker Air Force Base. Today, 40 businesses and nearly 250 workers operate here, with services ranging well beyond the expected aerospace and defense operations. We are also home to a 300-acre youth sports complex, Thunder Bayou Golf Links and Westminster Village, a retirement community on the National Register of Historic Places. The Arkansas Aeronautics Commission reported that the Arkansas Aeroplex is responsible for $16.3 million in economic impact to the state, compared with $5.7 million for average general aviation airports.

Is the Aeroplex seeing any momentum around the steel boom in northeast Arkansas?

We are a landing site of choice for company-owned aircraft, steel customers and steel industry suppliers. Time is money, and as a landing site in Mississippi County rather than Memphis, we are saving our customers countless hours. We have been able to grow the steel industry and Aeroplex in tandem, and as you often see in other regions, success in one industry is a catalyst for others.

What do people need to know about the site’s history?

The former Eaker Air Force Base has served our country and region since opening in 1942 as a training center for pilots. It closed in 1945 and was reactivated in 1951. Since the last aircraft assigned to Eaker left in March of 1992, Mississippi County has been an alternate landing site for NASA space shuttles and Air Force One and Air Force Two, as well as FedEx aircraft. It’s still used as a training and testing site for the military and aircraft manufacturers.

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