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Business booming at PTIA, reports show
  • Updated

GUILFORD COUNTY — Passenger traffic at Piedmont Triad International Airport has not recovered as much from the COVID-19 pandemic as traffic at some other North Carolina airports, but business flowing through the airport has grown sharply, according to recent local data and a new state report.

In fact, PTIA packs an outsize punch compared to the state’s two largest airports in terms of its economic impact, the N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Aviation’s new biennial economic impact study says.

The study also shows that Guilford Technical Community College has far more students in aviation-related training than any other school in the state.

The number of passengers using the state’s 10 commercial service airports in 2021, the most recent year for which complete statistics were available, had rebounded to 56.9 million, or 80% of what it had been in 2019, according to the impact study.

The state study did not detail each airport’s traffic numbers but said that Asheville Regional Airport, which ranks fifth in the state by overall economic output, became the state’s third-busiest airport by passenger traffic — behind Charlotte Douglas International and Raleigh-Durham International — in 2021 due to its early rebound.

Statistics reported last month to the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority show that even late last year, the local recovery in passenger traffic lagged, with the number of passengers at PTIA in November 2022 down 25% compared to the number in November 2019. Reports to the authority throughout 2022 showed similar statistics.

Kevin Baker, the executive director of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, said month-to-month passenger numbers fluctuate, but one reason the airport’s traffic recovery has lagged is an ongoing pilot shortage that began last year. The result has been that the big airlines have hired away pilots from the kinds of regional carriers that predominate at PTIA, which reduced the number of flights available there. For instance, the airport currently has no flights to Dulles International Airport, outside of Washington, D.C.

“The recovery has been slower for us because of that sort of double-whammy,” Baker said.

But PTIA has seen vigorous growth in cargo traffic, far outpacing the state average, the reports show.

The state’s impact study said that 1.3 million tons of cargo moved through the state’s airports in 2021, up 22% from 2019.

The state report does not break that down by airport, but PTIA’s cargo traffic in December 2021 was up about 60% from 2019, an early 2022 report to the airport authority said.

Baker said the statewide cargo surge was a symptom of a national trend caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as more people bought more things online, and at PTIA the extra large surge was a result of having a FedEx hub there.

Business has slowed during 2022, with last month’s report to the airport authority showing cargo traffic in November 2022 was up 45% from November 2019, but Baker said that’s a result of the people going out to stores more again.

“It seems to be leveling out to a new normal now,” he said.

In terms of overall economic impact, PTIA ranked third in the state in 2021, generating 21,450 jobs, $3 billion in personal income, $284 million in state and local taxes and $9.3 billion in economic output, according to the state’s impact study.

But while the Charlotte and Raleigh airports have larger economic impacts, the difference in dollar amounts is not as stark as might be expected.

Though Charlotte generated 151,575 jobs in 2021, more than seven times PTIA’s jobs, its personal income of $20.9 billion and economic output of $31.8 billion were just a little more than double PTIA’s.

And Raleigh’s 85,460 jobs were nearly four times PTIA’s, but its $5.4 billion in personal income and $17 billion in economic output were less than double PTIA’s.

Baker said that reflects the long-term trend of PTIA’s growth as a regional economic engine with a large number and variety of high-paying aerospace industry jobs.

“The airport has been an economic engine for a while now, but I think it’s growing,” he said. “It underscores that we occupy a very important niche.”

Given the growth of that niche, it may not be surprising that in terms of aviation-related training programs, GTCC had 695 students enrolled in fall 2021, dwarfing every other program in the state except N.C. State University’s aerospace engineering program, which had 403 students, the impact study said.

The next closest was Lenoir Community College in Kinston, which had 215 students.

Giving protection against the cold

Matt Htoo sorts through a rack of winter coats at the Salvation Army of High Point at 301 W. Green Drive that were donated for the FOX8/A Cleaner World’s 36th annual Give-a-Kid-a-Coat campaign. Through Feb. 3, the Salvation Army will distribute donated coats and outerwear to local adults and children in need on Fridays from 9-11 a.m. New or gently used coats at any A Cleaner World through Feb. 11.

Lessons may emerge from pain of family slaying
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — Catherine Johnson’s calling has become a career in which she regularly witnesses the pain inflicted on adults and children by domestic violence, but the murder-suicide a week ago that killed five members of a family in north High Point reaches deeply into her consciousness.

Johnson, the director of the Guilford County Family Justice Center, said she understands the shock that the community feels after Robert J. Crayton Jr., 45, shot and killed his wife and three children — ages 18, 16 and 10 — and then himself at their house in the 2700 block of Mossy Meadow Drive off Deep River Road.

But Johnson said the unfathomable violence in a usually quiet neighborhood underscores the pervasive threat of domestic violence. Out of its despair, she said, perhaps the community can learn lessons about how to prevent another real-life nightmare from unfolding.

“It’s a very significant tragedy for our community,” she told The High Point Enterprise. “In the time I’ve worked in Guilford County since 2014 with the Family Justice Center, this is the most horrific instance of domestic violence.”

Johnson said she has been struck by neighbors of the Crayton family saying in media interviews that they had no idea of the potentially deadly situation that had been simmering in the family’s house. Johnson said that fits with an abuser’s effort to keep the mistreatment of family members secret, creating a facade in their demeanor with neighbors, friends and coworkers that their home life is tranquil and supportive.

“That’s one of the traits of a domestic violence abuser, being charismatic,” she said. “That’s part of the manipulation — outside their doors, they want everybody to think they’ve got a household where everything is all right.”

During a press briefing Monday, police said they had been called to the Crayton home six times since 2014, most recently Jan. 3, 2022, when Robert Crayton was served an order for involuntary commitment for mental health treatment. Police said there’s no record of Crayton ever being arrested.

The strongest predictor of a murder-suicide that’s family-based is a previous record of domestic violence, said Nathaniel Ivers, chairman of the Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University.

“In most cases where a murder-suicide occurs, it’s a man killing his wife, then killing children if they are involved, then killing himself,” Ivers said.

In an effort to try to prevent murder-suicides, communities should provide resources to support healthy family development and offer opportunities for family counseling, Ivers said.

Johnson said the community needs to examine ways to make people in unsafe home situations feel more comfortable seeking a way out.

“What are the conditions that keep people silent and what do we need to do to open pathways for them to share with us so we can help?” she said. “Sometimes people may feel shame, they may feel fear that they can’t share or talk to someone about what’s going on.”

Johnson said that often a community will try to find a single reason for a domestic violence tragedy, but the factors are complex.

At its essence, though, “violence and abuse is about power and control,” she said. | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul

Dying convict harbored a well-kept secret in 1906

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first story in a two-part High Point Confidential series.


Somewhere among the thousands of bodies buried at Oakwood Municipal Cemetery lie the remains of a most mysterious man.

We know he’s buried in the old graveyard — he’s been there for more than a century, according to old newspaper clippings — but he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave, so we don’t know exactly where.

What we do know is that, for some unknown reason, our mystery man took a hallowed, well-kept secret to his grave: his name.

Our story begins in late 1905, when John B. McMillan — that’s how he introduced himself — had established himself as a charismatic young man about town in Greensboro, where he lived and worked, and throughout the county. His reputation was that of a well-bred, well-educated, genteel sort of fellow whose demeanor hadn’t raised any red flags.

That changed in December 1905, however, when McMillan was arrested on forgery charges, accused of swindling his boss out of $199 and swindling the company out of another $140. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

The uncharacteristic incident raised eyebrows and questions: Who is this man? Is his name really McMillan? Where’s his family? What else don’t we know about him?

Newspaper accounts indicate McMillan — or whoever he was — was a model prisoner, but he apparently tired of doing hard labor on the county roads. On the morning of May 24, 1906, at a county prison camp near Jamestown, he and four other convicts made a mad dash for freedom, ignoring the armed guards’ shouts to halt.

Two of the fleeing convicts — McMillan and Jesse Thomas — couldn’t ignore the next sound they heard.


Both men were shot in the back as they fled, while the other three inmates escaped unscathed. Thomas died from his wounds almost immediately, but McMillan was whisked away to the old Junior Order of Mechanics Hospital in High Point, oozing blood by the second. Surgeons labored over the dying convict for nearly seven hours trying to save him, until it became obvious he wouldn’t survive.

One of the doctors asked McMillan, who was roughly 25, about his spiritual condition.

“Oh yes, doctor,” he replied. “I have made peace with my God, and I hope He has forgiven me.”

As he spoke, McMillan reached for a gold crucifix hanging from a chain around his neck. He gently caressed the crucifix and tearfully urged the doctor to make sure it was buried with him, explaining that it had been a gift from his late mother.

“Thank God she is dead and does not know of my disgrace,” he said.

Then the doctors began prying into the dying man’s true identity, believing — as rumors had suggested after his forgery conviction — that McMillan was an alias.

“You are about to die,” one of them said. “Tell us who you are so that we can notify your people.”

Another doctor added, “Yes, tell us your right name — it will do you no good to keep up the sham any longer.”

McMillan refused to tell them, though, explaining he didn’t want his criminal history to bring shame to his family.

“I wouldn’t have my people know I died with a bullet through me as a county convict,” he said. “If I die, my secret will die with me.”

McMillan was adamant, but as the hours slowly slipped away from him, he seemed to have a change of heart. At one point, he asked a nurse to send for John Hodgin, the Greensboro man he had swindled. Perhaps he was flooded with guilt and wanted to share his secret with the man he had wronged. Hodgin was coming from Greensboro, though, and McMillan realized he might not get there in time.

Finally, as his strength ebbed and the inevitability of death weighed upon him, he called a nurse to his side and whispered his deathbed confession. Also in the room for the dramatic moment were two prominent High Point men — High Point Enterprise Editor J.J. Farriss, who was reporting on the convict’s attempted escape and eventual death, and well-known businessman and community leader William H. Ragan.

The confession?

McMillan’s real name was Brent A. Morey, and he hailed from a small town near Lexington, Kentucky. His mother was dead, but his father — one of the most prominent men in Kentucky — was still living, as were other relatives.

“(My father) must never know how I died,” the young man told the witnesses around his hospital cot. “Just bury me out in the field anywhere.”

With that, John B. McMillan — aka Brent A. Morey — closed his eyes and died, the weight of his unveiled secret having cleansed his soul.

There was just one thing about that deathbed confession, though.

It was a lie. | 336-888-3579


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