Johnny Harris touts airport expansion

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If you've flown over the past year, you've seen a lot of construction at Charlotte Douglas. But if things go according to plan, you haven't seen anything yet. Next up: a new 12,000 foot runway that has local leaders like Johnny Harris really excited.

"We'll have the ability to fly deep into Europe and to fly to Asia directly," Harris says.

Harris is considered a pioneer here - a real estate magnate who's helped steer and develop the area, and he is in awe of accomplishments at Charlotte Douglas.

"At a time when we're sort of reeling from the rest of the economy reorganizing itself, it's amazing to see the strength of the airport," he says. "It's the lowest cost airport in the world in the fastest growing urban area in this country, and the airport is an integral part of that."

Airport growth has sealed the deal on big-time corporate relocations.

"And now going forward, we are in the throes of constructing an inter-modal facility at the airport that will combine both rail and truck transportation with the air transportation," Harris says. "It will be one of the single most important logistic hubs on the East Coast if not the country."

The grandfather of it all is Aviation Director Jerry Orr.

"And that's because of Jerry Orr and his team and the leadership they provided to make this airport great," Harris says.

Mayor Anthony Foxx has used Orr as an example of a risk-taker who defied critics in the seventies, elevating the airport to greatness.

"We have allowed Jerry Orr to run the airport and kept the politics out of it," Harris says.

But when City Council recently knocked down Foxx's own ambitious plan, Harris became concerned.

"If they can't pass the capital program for the city, we don't need those same people trying to run the airport," he says.

He thinks there could be opposition in store.

"What we don't need to do is to allow the politicians to negatively affect the airport," Harris says. "The airport is the bread and butter for this community."