KINGSPORT — Aerospace Park has been called one the most significant, regional economic development initiatives in our lifetime.
Airport officials claim the project could bring as many as 2,000 jobs to the park, with salaries significantly higher than the typical manufacturing job in our area.
Aerospace Park is an idea nearly 20 years in the making. It’s a 160-acre site adjacent to the Tri-Cities Airport that local officials envision becoming a hub for aerospace industries, such as engine and airframe manufacturing, delivery and training centers and maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities.
A great deal of work has gone into the project over the past 15 years — more than $23 million in infrastructure work at or near the property, including site grading, construction of an access road and the installation of utilities.
Right now, roughly 30 acres of the park is ready to go for development with another 10 acres coming online next year. That leaves 120 acres undeveloped, which is why TCA Executive Director Patrick Wilson came before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday to give city leaders an update on the project.
A milestone is occurring Wednesday.
The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to hold a called meeting Wednesday morning to consider an intergovernmental agreement. The agreement lays out how much money the five airport partners have to pitch in to develop the remaining acres at the site.
Aerospace Park has five partners: Sullivan and Washington counties, Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol, Tenn. Since the park resides in Sullivan, it has to approve the agreement first, then the remaining partners, which is expected to take place in the next month.
Site work for the 120 acres is estimated to cost $20.7 million, Wilson told the BMA. TCA has secured a $3.6 million federal grant and has applied for $8.5 million in state funds to go toward the project. That leaves $8.5 million from the five partners: Sullivan ($2.29 million); Washington ($1.9 million); Johnson City ($1.9 million); Kingsport ($1.6 million); and Bristol, Tenn. ($794,000).
An environmental review is currently underway on the 120-acre site, Wilson said. The TCA is planning to go out to bid in April and award a contract for the work in May.
TCA has attempted to recruit a number of prospects over the past 10 years to go in the park. Two prospects are active — both are maintenance, repair and overhaul industries and both need about 25 acres. If they pan out, it could mean up to 550 new jobs coming to Sullivan County.