One year ago, the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority dropped a bomb out of the clear blue sky onto area citizens: The name of Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA), the Airport Authority announced, was being changed to Central North Carolina International Airport.
On Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, the Airport Authority voted unanimously to put the new name into effect, starting Jan. 1, 2018.
At that meeting, Airport Authority Member Jeff White said, “This is one of the most exciting and worthwhile endeavors that this board has ever undertaken. I truly believe it is going to be of benefit to everyone sitting around this table in our marketing efforts and in our identity – who we are.”
That may have been the worst prediction of 2017.
Now, a year later, there’s never a peep out of airport officials about “Central North Carolina International Airport,” and it appears all but certain that that name will never rear its – ugly? – head again. This Christmas, unlike last Christmas, it’s all quiet on the Central North Carolina front.
This time last year, however, the name change was a giant story with thousands of area residents expressing their displeasure over the move. That sentiment was made clear everywhere from posts on social media to letters to the editors of local newspapers to the Christmas conversations around the family dinner table.
The airport officially had the new name for the first three weeks of 2018 – though nothing really changed during that time. The public reaction was so negative that the very first time the Airport Authority met again, in late January 2018, they voted unanimously to put on hold the name change they had unanimously approved four weeks earlier.
Within days after the announcement, it seemed like the only people who liked the Central Carolina name were the members of the Airport Authority and those who had to like it because they worked for the Airport Authority.
One thing that didn’t go over well at all was that the major change for one of the most important local landmarks was done completely in secret with absolutely zero public input. The Airport Authority had even adopted guidelines for the new name in private – even though in actuality doing so legally requires a public vote.
There were other strange things at play as well. For instance, one of the driving forces behind the name was said to be the Piedmont Triad Partnership which had apparently been such a big proponent of the new name because “Piedmont Triad” is a nebulous non-descript name that makes it hard to effectively market the area.
The problem with that argument coming from the Piedmont Triad Partnership, however, is that there was never any indication that the Piedmont Triad Partnership – which unquestionably has “Piedmont Triad” in its name – was changing its ownname. The partnership didn’t return several calls from the Rhino Timesthat were made in an attempt to solve that puzzle.
While ordinary citizens didn’t like being kept out of the loop, the elected officials who appoint Airport Authority members reallydidn’t like it. Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad said he didn’t appreciate finding out about the name change on Facebook and Commissioner Skip Alston also expressed his dismay over knowing nothing about the change until it happened.
Alston pointed out that the Airport Authority has three members who were put on that authority to enact the will of Guilford County with regard to the airport. The county commissioners, Alston said, didn’t know about the name change until after the fact.
“I think it came out of the clear blue sky,” he said. “They work for us. I think they should have at least run it by us.”
In early 2018, the Airport Authority, after putting the Central Carolina name on hold, put out a highly involved request for proposals to help with the name change and rebranding effort, but then months went by and the board never acted on the responses and it appears now like it never will.
In September, PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker said the airport is halting the name change due to a new initiative by the Piedmont Triad Partnership to market four major sites in central North Carolina together under the brand “Carolina Core.” Baker said the introduction of that regional effort caused PTIA to reevaluate its renaming plans.