Lone Star Executive Airport in Conroe could be adding an immigration and customs facility to its growing list of services, with funding from a regional partnership between Montgomery County, The Woodlands Township, and several other public and private entities.
The new facility would allow inbound private aircraft landing at Lone Star Executive Airport to clear customs in Conroe rather than in nearby Houston or Laredo, officials said.
"It's going to be a huge plus for this region of Texas," said Mike Meador, Montgomery County Precinct 1 commissioner. "There are only eight or nine reliever airports [in Texas] that have customs agents."
The county has partnered with Black Forest Ventures and the city of Conroe and is pursuing partnerships with The Woodlands Township and the East County Improvement District to fund construction of the proposed 32,000-square-foot facility.
The project is expected to cost an estimated $2 million to $2.5 million, with each partner contributing about $600,000, Meador said.
The Woodlands officials are considering funding a portion of the project to provide accessible international travel to companies with business abroad, township chairman Bruce Tough said.
In the Houston region, only Sugar Land Regional Airport, William P. Hobby Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport offer similar facilities, Tough said.
Lone Star Executive Airport has steadily seen growth and improvement as the county invests to keep up with growing local demand for business travel. The airport recently added the Galaxy FBO facility, and it is extending one of its runways to 7,500 feet to accommodate heavier flight loads, airport director Scott Smith said.
"The demand in corporate and business aviation is increasing, and that is directly because of business and economic activity increasing in our side of town," Smith said. "It opens up opportunities for the customer, and that is what it's all about."
Gil Staley, chief executive officer of The Woodlands Economic Partnership, said the facility would give The Woodlands another business recruitment tool in its arsenal composed of quality of life amenities, mobility improvement projects and tax incentive programs.
"We have been told by two significant users of corporate aircraft that they would not entertain the idea of being at an airport unless they had a customs facility," Staley said. "Being as competitive as we can when we recruit companies is vital."