The FAA formally gave its blessing for a new major airport near Panama City on the Florida Panhandle. The agency issued its Decision of Record accepting the environmental-impact statement and clearing the way for federal funding for the $300 million project. The state has committed $82.5 million to the project and civic officials are hailing it as a boon to local tourism and development. The current Panama City-Bay County International Airport is on 715 acres the city says was worth $55 million three years ago. The new airport would be about 30 miles away in West Bay and critics argue that the project has more to do with real estate than it does with air traffic.
The new airport will be on 4,000 acres donated by the St. Joe Company, a massive land-development company that just happens to own the 78,000 acres of mainly undeveloped land surrounding it. According to the Business Journal of Jacksonville, “the airport relocation is a necessary condition for the second and third phases of St. Joe’s 16,000-acre West Bay project.” The first phase included housing, commercial space and a hotel; the second and third phases add industrial space, more housing, and commercial and tourism development.