Airport begins earth-moving experience

Hank Hayes • Oct 4, 2018 at 7:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE – Wheels up.

That was the attitude Thursday as Tri-Cities Airport and elected officials gathered to set the stage for the next multi-million dollar phase of Aerospace Park site development.

Grading for the project to create aviation-related jobs has begun and is scheduled to be completed in late fall 2020. Once this phase of construction is complete, Aerospace Park will have a total of 105 acres ready for immediate development.

Aerospace Park already offers 32 acres ready for development.

“Aerospace Park would not be in this stage of development if it were not for the support of our funding partners,” Airport Authority Chairman Dr. Jon Smith said in a release. “It has been an honor to be a part of the cities and counties coming together on this significant, regional economic development project.”

The airport’s former owners — Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City, and Sullivan and Washington counties — signed an agreement last year backing bonds to pay for the job.

Airport Executive Director Patrick Wilson noted the Airport Authority has received grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and TVA.

The airport will be competing for approximately $1.7 million in grant funding for the final phase. The final phase of site construction will include grading completion of 17 acres and the addition of utilities and access roads. Once the total site is complete, the Airport Authority will seek certification of the 122-acre site through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s Select Tennessee Site program.

Site completion and certification will bolster Aerospace Park marketing efforts, said Mark Canty, Airport Authority Director of Trade and Business Development.

“Expanding the footprint of the current certified acreage of Aerospace Park will allow us to more effectively promote the site, compete for large projects and increase our ability to bring quality jobs to Northeast Tennessee,” Canty said.

The airport’s target industries for Aerospace Park include maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations, completion and delivery centers, passenger to freighter conversion centers and manufacturers.

According to Canty, aircraft manufacturing and MRO operations are projected to experience significant growth over the coming decade, and recent trends have seen a high percentage of domestic growth occurring in the Southeastern United States.

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