Southern Illinois Airport Celebrates Completion of $26 Million Expansion Project | Local News

MURPHYSBORO — Southern Illinois Airport held an open house to celebrate the completion of a $26 million expansion and construction project.

Steven Burroughs, chairman of the Southern Illinois Airport Board, speaks during open house festivities highlighting the airport’s recent growth Friday afternoon.

Byron Hetzler

Steven Burroughs, chairman of the airport’s board of directors, told the nearly 200 people gathered for the celebration that the airport opened in 1950 on 160 acres with a hangar and 10 employees.

Today, the airport spans 12,000 acres and has three all-weather runways, including one that can land a Boeing 757. It is the third busiest airport in Illinois, the 104 busiest in the United States and generates $122 million per year.

In addition to housing the SIU’s flight, aviation management, and automotive technology programs, the airport is home to many businesses.


Southern Illinois Airport Manager Gary Shafer speaks during an open house at the airport Friday afternoon. The event allowed the public to view the airport’s recent expansion projects.

Byron Hetzler

Airport Manager Gary Shafer spent 43 years working at the Southern Illinois airport. He congratulated the many board members who served during his tenure.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the airport,” Shafer said.

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The project they celebrated on Friday afternoon has attracted $26 million over the past three years. This includes $12 million in state and local grants, $10 million in private investment from airport tenants, and $4 million from First Southern Bank and First Bank and Trust.

As a result, the airport has five new buildings. Two buildings added an additional 110,000 square feet to the airport campus. Four tenants have expanded their activities and four new tenants have moved into the airport.

Shafer thanked airport tenants and people who helped with the expansion. These include White and Borgognoni Architects, designers Asaturian, Eaton and Associates, and builders Samron Midwest Contracting and HE Mitchell.

“Nothing on this scale can be achieved in isolation,” Shafer said.


Visitors learn about some of Code 1 Aviation’s work during an open house at the Southern Illinois airport on Friday afternoon. The event allowed the public to view the recent growth and businesses operating at the airport.

Byron Hetzler

He recognized tenants including National Guard, Aviation Insurance, HIS Disaster Response Team, Code 1 Aviation, Crucial MRO, Air Methods, Enhanced Aero, Yates Awning, GRNE Solar, Marijuana Growers ISEO and St. Nicholas Brewing Co.

“We’re the only airport in the United States that brews beer and grows pot, and we’re proud of that,” Shafer said.


On Friday, visitors learn about the new terminal at the Southern Illinois Airport during an open house highlighting recent additions and expansions.

Byron Hetzler

Other speakers included State Senator Terri Bryant, State Senator Dale Fowler, State Rep. Paul Jacobs, USDA State Director Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, Illinois Rep. ‘EDA Emily Rhodes and Delta Regional Authority Illinois Representative Brandi Bradley.

Bryant joked that it doesn’t go unnoticed in Springfield that this evangelical representative has beer, pot, wine and gambling in her district, and she’s happy to have it. She said the number of high-paying jobs at the airport goes unnoticed in southern Illinois.

“We are very happy to have each of them,” Bryant said.

Fowler said the atmosphere at the airport will entice people to join the 20 tenants currently on the airport campus.

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In addition to being an optometrist and state representative, Jacobs is a pilot and has been a tenant at the airport. He thanked Shafer for bringing the things businesses need to the airport, such as airport police and others who keep pilots and aviation companies safe.

“Thank you, Gary Shafer. I’ve seen him build and build here for 43 years,” Jacobs said.

During the celebration, Marc Burton of Crucial MRO signed an expansion agreement with the airport board. He said Crucial MRO has caught the eye of major airlines. They will build two new hangars that will service and repair aircraft for Allegiant Airlines and regional airline Delta.


Mark Burton (left), of Crucial MRO, and Steven Burroughs, chairman of the Southern Illinois Airport Board, sign an agreement to build two additional hangars at the airport for Burton’s aircraft maintenance company commercial, during an open day at the airport on Friday afternoon. The open house highlighted recent expansion and additions to the airport.

Byron Hetzler

Shafer said the airport will announce three new tenants in the coming weeks.

The event ended with site visits and a party.

The Southern Illinois Airport is located between Carbondale and Murphysboro.

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