About Thomaston -
Upson County Airport
When the Thomaston Upson
County Airport (OPN) was opened in July of 1994, it held the distinction
of being the first airport in Georgia built from the ground up in more
than 20 years.
The purpose of constructing an airport specifically to
complement industry and trade was an innovative concept in the mid-1980s
when this project began. The existing airport (Reginald Grand Field) had
one 2,900- foot by 50-foot runway, a circle to land NDB approach, six
T-hangars and 15 based aircraft. Needless to say, local community
leaders had to overcome some obstacles to gain support for a new
facility. With the subsequent decline of the textile industry in the
1990s, which provided more than 5,000 jobs in Upson County at its peak,
the foresight of providing access for new business was brilliant.
OPN currently provides 6,350 feet of runway, an ILS approach
and AWOS. There are 63 based aircraft, including five business
operations, 70 T-hangars and three corporate hangars, two of which are
brand new. The joint city and county industrial development authority
has successfully recruited several major businesses to whom airport
access was at the top of their list of needs. The first among these was
Quad/Graphics, which opened their Thomaston plant in 1995 on adjacent
property to the airport. Today the airport not only serves every major
business in Upson County, but it also reaches out to industry and trade
in seven surrounding counties.
Thomaston is located in the center of a triangle between
Atlanta, Macon, and Columbus. The city was incorporated in 1825 and has
some of the oldest buildings in the state of Georgia. It also features a
little known state park called Sprewell Bluff State Park, which is
located on 1,372 acres of pristine Georgia country with the Flint River
as its hallmark attraction. Visitors can boat, fish, hike along its
trails, and play horseshoes or volleyball all in a natural remote
environment that allows complete escape from daily stresses.
Thomaston is also home to Upson Regional Medical Center, a
115-bed primary healthcare facility and winner of the Hometown Health
Association's hospital of the year award. Gordon College of the Georgia
University System, offering more than 60 programs of study for its
residential students, is also only 10 minutes from OPN.
The FBO at the Thomaston airport is manned by employees in a
joint project of Thomaston and Upson County with the concept that the
first impression a prospective industrial client will get is upon
exiting the aircraft. "We call it our field of dreams," say Airport
Manager Mitch Ellerbee. "Our staff knows our first priority is to
provide service to our customers, and quite frankly it's easy to do when
all your people share a love of airplanes. As we've grown, another of
our top priorities has been not to lose the home town atmosphere of a
small airport," says Ellerbee. "I think if you go online and look at the
comments on AirNav you'll see we've been successful in that."
Competitive fuel pricing has been another way OPN draws potential
business. "We tell our customers that we're not always cheapest, but
it's always fair," says Ellerbee. "That concept is shared by our
supplier, Perry Brothers Aviation Division, and with good communication
we simply try to buy at the right time in a very volatile market."
The Thomaston Upson County Airport is a success story that is
now widely known across the state and used repeatedly as an example of
how a community can invest in itself by providing access for industry