Photo above: Artist’s rendering of Aerospace Park when grading is complete. Courtesy Tri-Cities Airport
By Scott Roberston
The next few weeks represent the deep breath before the plunge for Tri-Cities Airport (TRI) officials working to obtain state funding for the Aerospace Park project. The Tennessee state government budget includes $30 million in grant funding through the Department of Transportation for economic development efforts related to airports. Officials at TRI want a little less than $9 million of that.
“The department has yet to announce a timeline for the disbursement of those grant funds,” TRI Airport Director Patrick Wilson said, adding that the department has not yet explained in detail how the application process will be carried out.
The budget originally included only $15 million, but with both Aerospace Park and the burgeoning effort to build a new airport at Oak Ridge likely to compete for funds, state officials realized it was possible neither project would get the funding it needed at that level. The authority already has commitments from the local governments to back a bond issue for part of the funds.
In the meantime, the TRI Airport Authority kept busy last month giving Wilson the go-ahead to work out an agreement to bring a new general aviation flying service to the facility. Beverly Barnett recently retired, closing Advanced Flight Training.
Wilson has been in preliminary talks with the owners of Morristown Flying Services to bring Cessna 150s and 172s to fill that niche, with 182s possible if demand dictates.