By Scott Robertson
Tri-Cities Airport’s Aerospace Park project will receive a $4.1 million grant from the the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) Aeronautics Economic Development (AED) Fund. “We are extraordinarily pleased to receive this grant,” said Jon Smith, chairman of the Tri-Cities Airport Authority (TCAA). “We believe it is a significant step in moving the region forward by attracting jobs and investment from the aerospace industry.”
AED grants are designated for projects that impact job creation and capital investment in the aviation industry. The Aerospace Park application stated, “By year five after completion of the site development project, the Tri-Cities Airport Authority has established a benchmark goal of MROs or aircraft manufacturers investing $25 million in facility construction and creating 650 jobs.”
Said Airport Director Patrick Wilson, “this is great news for the region. The combination of local city and county funding, some funding from TVA and now $4.1 million from TDOT is really going to move the site development significantly ahead.”
A 24-acre portion of the Aerospace Park site has already been graded. The Tri-Cities Airport Authority estimates the cost to have the full 140-acre site ready for occupancy at $17 million. The governments of Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport, along with Sullivan and Washington counties have committed a total of $8.5 million toward development. TVA has also committed $350,000. The Tri-Cities Airport Authority had applied for $8.15 million in AED funding.
Receipt of the grant means site preparation work will get underway this spring. Airport officials hope the remaining funding necessary to complete the project (roughly $4.05 million) can be included in the upcoming state budget. “This ($4.1 million grant) was a great result of our first request,” said Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge. “I’m very pleased and very appreciative for the state grant that covers about half the unfunded portion of the project. Over the coming months we will have opportunities to pursue both grant and appropriation funds at the state level. I’m optimistic based on the merits of the project that the remainder of the funding is going to be made available to us.”