While the Barkley Regional Airport Authority board was considering who to hire to succeed longtime Executive Director Richard Roof, one of the candidates was doing some "due diligence" of his own.

"I'm not sure many people knew this, but I did come up with my family (to visit Paducah)," said Dennis Rouleau, the candidate ultimately chosen for the job. "I did want to come up and visit the area since it was close to where I was living at the time (Alabama)."

The community obviously made a good impression on the new executive director and his family.

"I was essentially a 'secret shopper' (coming in under cover) to check it out. Everybody was so nice and pleasant and welcoming, which is normal for the South."

The family stayed at an Airbnb in Benton to see some of the Lakes area as well, and visited downtown Paducah.

"We had dinner at Tribeca and walked around downtown," Rouleau said. "We were looking at the quality of life ... it's a nice place to live."

The quality of life is not the only thing that attracted the airport's new executive director.

"The airport was also a selling point," he said. "The airport has tremendous possibilities, tremendous potential. I love challenges and I'm going to be kept busy for a while with the new terminal. That's going to be an exciting project.

"The board is very, very supportive - and the entire community is very supportive - of the airport. That's also a selling point and is also very important for me."

According to Rouleau, who has spent about 35 years in the aviation industry, an airport is an economic multiplier in a community. The local airport is unique in that it's daily flights to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport offers connections to most any part of the world.

"If a corporation or business is looking for a specific facility or specific area to put down roots they want to live here, they want to have access to the world," he said. "And, here at Barkley Regional Airport, you have access to the world right at your front door. That's important in this global economy."

Rouleau's experience as manager of the Chicago Executive Airport, which serves as a general aviation reliever airport to O'Hare, and his experience in working with the Federal Aviation Administration, were key selling points for the Barkley board's decision to hire him.

He also has experience working with an electronics company related to the aerospace and aviation industry, a timely topic that was part of a discussion Gov. Matt Bevin had with the airport board (and Rouleau) during a recent visit to Barkley Regional.

"I was very, very impressed with the governor and his knowledge of aviation and it s potential," Rouleau said.

The Paducah/McCracken County area should be able to attract new business related to aerospace and aviation, he said.

"You've got the interstate that comes right through here and the four major waterways. In my opinion, there's no reason that type of business couldn't locate here."

Rouleau is encouraged by the support from the community - and the FAA - regarding the airport's plans to construct a new passenger terminal.

"When you get federal funds, that's a tremendous amount of money coming back to this economy," he said. "So the money spent for the terminal building and related projects will go, I'm sure, to contractors in the area."

In most cases, the funding split is 95 federal funds, with the remaining 5 percent coming from local funding sources.

Rouleau reiterated the importance of having a new terminal, and the strong first impression it makes to potential businesses and manufacturers, echoing comments the governor made during his visit.

"It (new terminal) is going to be the front door to the community," he said. "Just like the waterways is a front door, and the interstate is a front door. The airport is going to be a brand new front door to the community.

"It's important for the community to know what a jewel you have in the facility and the opportunities you have here," Rouleau said. "I encourage everyone to fly Barkley and experience it."

The new executive director is pleased with the "tremendous people" working at the airport and with how the facility has been run for the last 45 years by his predecessor.

"Richard Roof has done a phenomenal job," he said. "He definitely leaves a lasting legacy here and the community has been very blessed to have such a distinguished man running this facility."

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