Offering high speed, low costs and professional service, the Executive Regional Airport is bringing in business and helping the River Parishes grow.

The River Parishes are a great place to do business, offering competitive pricing and solid infrastructure, and the Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Regional Airport has long supported the area’s development. Throughout the past decade, the airport has seen a number of major improvements and additions — from new hangars to taxiway extensions — that make business trips to the region faster, cheaper and safer.

Streamlining air travel has been a boon for South Louisiana’s energy and chemical giants, but it’s not just big industry that’s seeing the benefits. The Executive Regional Airport has played an equally important role in nurturing the projects of small and medium-sized companies — just ask Delton Smith and Kyle Hand.

Smith, President of SMC Hotels Group, and Hand, Vice President of Operations at Hand Construction, are about to finish up construction on a hotel in LaPlace, just outside the airport. The project, a four-story, 94-room Fairfield Inn by Marriott, will cater to people doing business at the Port and the local industrial plants.

Oddly enough, it was airplanes that brought Smith and Hand together. Their fathers are longtime friends, and also licensed pilots. “They’ve been flying airplanes together for some time now,” said Hand.

Since construction began in 2017, Smith and Hand have been making visits around every two weeks to follow the hotel’s progress. And thanks to the airport, almost all of those trips have been by private plane.

Smith flies down with his father, Harrison Smith, the Chairman of SMC Hotels Group. For them, the advantages of the Executive Regional Airport over the area’s larger airports are obvious. Landing in New Orleans, for example, would mean long waits and a long drive out of the city. But when they touch ground at the Port, they’re out of the plane and onto the tarmac almost instantly, where a car is already waiting to take them to the site.

“It’s a very well-run and convenient airport,” said Smith. “We can get to the hotel from the airport in 10 minutes or less.”

Hand agreed, thanking Airport Director Vincent Caire and FTZ Manager Lisa Braud for their professional, friendly and accommodating service. “The airport has helped this project tremendously,” said Hand. “I live over 200 miles away, but I can come down and walk the job within hours. It’s allowing us to get down there, check the job, visit with the owner, the architect, the subcontractors — just keep an eye on it.”

The two men made it clear that the airport offers the best choice of transportation in terms of both speed and cost. Driving from Shreveport to LaPlace could take as long as five hours, but flying would only take around one. That means Smith and Hand can get to the site in the morning and be back home by mid-afternoon. “If I drove, I’d be less productive,” said Hand. “Instead of driving down here today and driving back tomorrow, I fly down here and back in a day, and I’m working on something else the next day.”

Saving on time also means saving on expenses. Hand said that visiting the worksite by plane not only expedites his travel time, but also results in less spending.

The airport’s offerings go beyond convenience and savings, however. Hand gave his interview for this article over the phone from LaPlace’s own Frisco Deli. “I’m about to eat a fried shrimp po-boy,” he said, “so you all can thank the Port for allowing me to come down here and get a good South Louisiana sandwich!”

For Smith’s part, he stressed that the Port of South Louisiana and the Executive Regional Airport will be crucial for his business’s continued success long after they finish construction.

“We decided to build this hotel because we saw the Port was growing and attracting business,” he said. “Not only is the airport important to us as a customer — we use it — but it’s also important to us as a business, that the airport continues to grow and continues to be a strong engine for the area.”

Fairfield Inn & Suites, located at 944 Belle Terre Boulevard in LaPlace, is scheduled to open in April 2019.