The people who have been up in arms since Christmas of last year about Piedmont Triad International Airport’s (PTIA) name change can now breathe a sigh of relief – the airport has dropped plans to change the name and airport officials are no longer conducting a major rebranding effort that began earlier this year.
The public controversy started late last year – on Tuesday, Dec. 19 – when the seven-member Piedmont Triad Airport Authority voted to change the name of Piedmont Triad International Airport to Central North Carolina International Airport. That came as a total surprise to area citizens and the move created a major backlash since many people didn’t want the airport’s name changed – or didn’t want it changed to Central North Carolina International.
Now airport leaders have settled back into Piedmont Triad International and have no plans to change the name. The authority could always revisit the issue in future years, however a major new regional marketing effort have grounded the airport’s name-change plans.
PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker said the airport is halting the name change due to the new initiative by the Piedmont Triad Partnership (PTP). Earlier this month, PTP unveiled a branding plan to market four major sites in central North Carolina together. Baker said the introduction of that regional effort has caused PTIA to reevaluate its plans.
“The Piedmont Triad Partnership has been rebranding four megasites between Fayetteville and Winston-Salem along [US] 421 as ‘Carolina Core,’” Baker said.
He added that it was a very exciting development that he and others expect to bring a lot of attention to the area due to the impressive combined assets of the sites involved.
“That’s probably unheard of,” he said of the central North Carolina offerings under the single Carolina Core brand.
He said he and many others concerned with area economic development want that branding effort to be allowed to play out without a simultaneous PTIA name change effort getting in the way. He said it could have been confusing for PTIA – one of four parts of Carolina Core – to undergo its own rebranding effort with the new regional one taking place.
“We want to make sure that what we do fits in with the Piedmont Triad Partnership’s plan,” Baker said.
The megasites in Carolina Core include PTIA’s new 1,000-acre aerospace site with runway access, the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite with over 1,900 acres available for future tenants, the Chatham-Siler City Advance Manufacturing Site that offers more than 1,800 acres of available land and the roughly 2,500-acre Moncure Megasite near Research Triangle Park.
Promotional materials from the Partnership state that the Carolina Core is “a corridor between Winston-Salem and Fayetteville at the heart of North Carolina with four new megasites of 7,200 acres of certified land that offer advanced manufacturers room to grow, as well as many other industrial sites, urban research parks and mixed-use developments.”
According to the Piedmont Triad Partnership’s materials about the core initiative, those four areas provide “a skilled workforce born of a rich manufacturing heritage and fueled by the innovation mindset of more than 30 colleges and universities in the region,” and it also notes, “We are in the middle of a state that is consistently ranked as one of the best places to do business in the nation with low costs, competitive incentives and first-rate infrastructure to access the world.”
A name change for PTIA – and a simultaneous rebranding of the airport – could have rubbed up against one another, diluted the new Carolina Core marketing message or simply caused confusion.
In the spring, PTIA sent out a request for qualifications for “Airport Branding And Naming Services,” which called for the company hired to assist the airport with “a tactical plan for implementation of the new brand.”
However, Baker stated in an email this week that there is “no on-going study at this time” regarding rebranding the airport.
One airport official who asked not to be named said another key factor in halting the name change plan was that, in December, when the Airport Authority voted to change the airport’s name, the swift and loud negative public reaction knocked the authority for a loop and took much of the wind out of the name change effort’s sails.
“I think they were blindsided by the pushback,” the airport official said, adding that there were legitimate concerns behind the desire to change the airport’s name – mainly that many people in other parts of the country and the world don’t realize that “Piedmont Triad” signifies Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.
The secretive way in which the Airport Authority approached the move was highly unusual and it didn’t sit well with some local leaders such as several Guilford County commissioners who said they only found out about the important change once it was a done deal.
The Airport Authority actually did change the name of PTIA for a short period – for the first three weeks of January 2018 – but the authority then put the Central Carolina name on hold, began taking suggestions for new names from the public and moved toward hiring a consulting firm to help with the rebranding effort.
Changing the name of PTIA would have cost a lot of money but no airport official was ever willing to give even a rough estimate of the cost of the proposed change.
Some opponents to the name change pointed out earlier this year that things have been going well at the airport under the PTIA brand. Under the current name, PTIA has attracted FedEx, Honda Aircraft, HAECO Americas and Cessna. The airport and the companies there currently employ over 5,000 people and contribute roughly $2 billion annually to the local economy; and the airport is on the brink of growing that number since it will open a giant aviation megasite with runway access in 2019 expected to attract a lot more business. Recently, FexEx announced it is adding up to 400 new jobs and Amazon began work on a large distribution center in Kernersville near the airport.
Earlier this year airport officials asked people to send in suggestions for a new name. Of those responding, 36 percent wanted to see the new name be Greensboro International Airport. That name or a version of it was also popular among those who sent in letters to local papers and posted their suggestions on social media. Many liked the fact that the name was simple, easy to say and it let travelers and others instantly know the location of the airport. They also pointed out that GSO is the official designation of the airport in flight materials and Greensboro Airport is what everyone already calls it.
Other suggestions offered, with various degrees of support, were The Heart of the Triad International Airport, Greensboro Kitty Hawk Airport, Greensboro-High Point International Airport, North Carolina Midway International Airport and North Carolina Piedmont International Airport. There were also some who suggested, among many other names, “Greensboro High Point Winston-Salem International Airport.”
Now those suggestions can all taxi back to a storage hanger at good old familiar Piedmont Triad International Airport.