Aerospace Park cashes in

Hank Hayes • Jan 11, 2018 at 5:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The money pipeline for Tri-Cities Airport’s Aerospace Park project got a boost Thursday as the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission announced the airport has been awarded a $4.1 million grant for the development.

The background: On the airport’s southside airfield, the plan is to develop a “build-ready” site for a future “maintenance, repair or overhaul” facility or other aviation-related industry. Part of the site is state-certified. Airport officials expect Aerospace Park could attract up to 2,000 aviation-related jobs.

What’s been happening: The Airport Authority and the airport’s former owners — Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City, and Sullivan and Washington counties — recently signed an agreement backing an $8.5 million bond that will help pay for grading the southside airfield. That grading, according to the agreement, is estimated to cost up to $18 million, and the Airport Authority is attempting to get the state of Tennessee to kick in another $8.5 million. To date, airport officials say more than $23 million has been invested in infrastructure serving the total 160-acre area including grading a portion of the site, construction of an industrial access road and installation of utilities. Twenty-one acres are certified through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as a Select Tennessee Site. Ten additional acres are expected to be prepared by late 2018.

Are powerful people on board with Aerospace Park? The project has the backing of Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell. The Northeast Tennessee delegation of state lawmakers has met with Gov. Bill Haslam to pitch the project.

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