CHARLOTTE – In my November magazine column, after I got a tour of the Global TransPark outside Kinston, I wrote that they should get more folks down to visit.

And that has happened. Earlier this month, around three dozen folks came down for a tour, most from state agencies and universities. I went along.

We rode around for a couple of hours on a bus on loan from Lenoir Community College, which has a big and growing role at GTP. I was there even though I had been on a version of the tour in September, and I’m glad I went, for a couple of reasons. With something as strategic and complex as the TransPark, there is always something more to understand. And second, I caught a break. The tour got to go inside the helicopter overhaul hangar, a 70-worker satellite facility operated at GTP by the Navy’s 4,000-employee, 147-acre Fleet Readiness Center East maintenance and repair depot on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. I hadn’t been inside yet but I wanted to, because this is a very important part of the growing relationship between the TransPark and the Navy.

Global TransPark’s regional reach. (GTP image)

$350 million

It is easier to get visitors to drive down to the TransPark these days. The General Assembly recently allocated $350 million for new maintenance facilities the Navy hopes to lease for work on Navy and Marine C-130s, big transport aircraft – if all the pieces fall into place soon. That has gotten a lot of attention.

The bus was taking us through the 2,500-acre industrial park built around the longest runway in North Carolina, 11,500 feet long. The airfield dates back to World War II, when it was used to train military pilots. It was decommissioned in the late ‘50s and became a county general aviation airport. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s it had some commercial flights, but that went away. For the last 30 years, the state has tried to develop it as an economic development engine in the middle of eastern North Carolina.

After some early struggles, the TransPark has gotten some significant aviation and aeronautics tenants, which isn’t that surprising. It has the runway, hundreds of shovel-ready acres, and is near military air bases.

For more details, check out the full story at Business North Carolina.