But after about four months into his new job as a deputy director at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Wilson decided his old job as executive director at Tri-Cities Regional Airport was a better fit for him and his family.
“Nothing negative about the RDU Airport or the environment whatsoever. It’s a great airport, great staff, great environment. It was nothing negative about the position or negative about the community ... but as we looked at it, we know we have a great community here in the Tri-Cities as well. We enjoyed the variety of duties I was doing here at the airport.
“Overall, we felt this was a best combination of career, family and community. When the discussion opened up that there may be a potential return, we decided it was something we would like to pursue,” Wilson said on his first day back as the executive director of Tri-Cities Regional Airport.
The Airport Authority Commission decided last month to rehire Wilson at his old salary, about $139,000, although Wilson was instructed to pay his own moving expenses.
Wilson returns facing pretty much the same challenges when he left: a tight operating budget at around $5 million and an airline industry scaling back the number of available flights, but also a southside airfield with numerous aviation-related development opportunities.
“Air service is a continuing challenge,” Wilson said. “I think we have a proven market here in the Tri-Cities, and it’s a matter of the airlines as they’ve gone through the consolidation process, there’s fewer airlines to recruit to the market. But at the same time, they are starting to get stronger financially, and hopefully as they add larger equipment to their fleets, we can continue to add larger aircraft and more seats to the market, which allows passenger numbers to go up. Recruiting airlines is the biggest challenge and biggest opportunity for us.”
During much of his previous eight-year tenure, Wilson cut TCRA staff by about 20 percent and now manages around 45 full-time employees and 20 part-timers.
“We’ve held our expenses as low as possible while maintaining the airport at a high level with the folks we have being efficient in what they are doing,” Wilson said of his budgeting approach. “Like all other airports, we’ll have to continue to look for ways to be as efficient as we can. If the economy grows, airlines will grow, and that’s the real key to keeping up with the needs of the airport.”
Wilson holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee and a master of business administration in aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He is accredited with the American Association of Airport Executives.
For more about TCRA, go to www.triflight.com.