In a news release, Harwell announced she has sent a letter to the members of the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission urging them to seriously consider the project for a major grant from the state. Harwell, who announced on Sunday she will be a Republican candidate for governor in 2018, toured the 160-acre site recently and believes the project will give the region a significant economic boost.
The airport has 21 state-certified acres ready for aviation-related development but is trying to put together a $20 million bundle to pay for grading the rest of the development.
After a total build-out, airport officials predict the site could produce up to 2,000 jobs.
“The Aerospace Park project at the Tri-Cities Airport is an innovative and worthwhile project for these grant funds,” said Harwell, R-Nashville. “I hope the commission will give serious consideration to this project, because I believe it will be beneficial for the entire Northeast Tennessee region.”
The legislature this year passed a bill, sponsored in the Senate by Bristol Republican Jon Lundberg and in the House by Blountville Republican Timothy Hill, to allow the Tri-Cities Airport Authority to borrow money and issue revenue bonds. It would also allow the airport’s partners — Northeast Tennessee city and county governments — to pledge their “full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power” as guarantors to pay the principal and interest on bonds.
In Harwell’s announcement, the Northeast Tennessee delegation in the House of Representatives joined her in advocating for the project.
“The Aerospace Park is one of the most important ventures to come to Northeast Tennessee in recent years because it will create new economic momentum for our entire region,” said Rep. John Crawford, R- Kingsport. “I appreciate Speaker Harwell’s support and look forward to working with her and my Northeast Tennessee colleagues to ensure the success of this critical project.”
The Tennessee Aeronautics Commission assists with the formulation of relevant policy planning and all proposed changes in the state airport system plan.