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First appearances, in many cases, can spell a make-or-break difference in attracting businesses and industries.
As a result, $3.126 million in infrastructure improvements are being made at Winchester Municipal Airport with another $1 million grant applied for — not only to cash in on industrial and business recruiting opportunities — but to make an already safe airport, safer.
The funding is through a match program with the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division paying 95 percent of the total cost through state and federal sources.
Of the $4.126 million, Winchester is chipping in only $206,335 — a good financial deal, according to airport manager Zachary Colescott.
“It’s incredible for Winchester,” he said, summing up what the state’s assistance has done for the airport. “We, like a lot of airports, have been able to do so much. A lot of work is being done because of it.”
The airport received a new 3,500-square-foot terminal building in 2009, which Colescott said has served as a catalyst toward the additional improvements, geared to give aerial visitors a strong impression when they land in Winchester for the first time.
“A lot of people think we’re just a small airport, but we’re so much more than that,” he said.
Colescott said companies, including Nissan and Baxter Enterprises, have relied on the airport’s 5,000-foot runway for transportation related to their business operations. He added that a new taxiway will ensure that an already safe airport showcases a continued emphasis on safety.
Colescott said business jets routinely use the airport, that rests on slightly less than 200 acres, and plans are to be able to accommodate aviation related companies at the airport’s north end.
“Our ultimate goal is to accommodate some aviation related businesses,” Colescott said. “There are limitations on space, but we’re not outside the realm of having aircraft maintenance facilities or a charter aircraft service.”
However, a main aspect about the airport is its use by other businesses that rely on its access to the skies to conduct their operations.
Colescott the airport, with its upgrades, speaks strongly to businesses and industrial companies about choosing to locate in the Winchester area.
“When they see it for the first time, it shows that this is a great place to be,” he said, referring to the airport and the community.
Colescott said the projects under way are expected to be completed by summer 2014.
Engineering and an environmental assessment work, totaling $92,500, on the first phase of a taxiway extension has been done.
Relocating utilities to move an access road to clear an area for the taxiway is in progress.
The main access road to the airport must be moved along the airport property’s west fence line, which will extend parallel to Highway 64.
Those two project segments will total $1.994 million.
Another part of the overall improvement effort will involve expanding the airport’s aircraft parking area, referred to as an apron, which will cost $515,000.
Lighting upgrades to convert all the airport’s incandescent runway and taxiway marking lights to light-emitting diode (LED) units will cost $525,000, setting the money received thus far at $3.126 million.
Colescott said LED lights use a fraction of the energy incandescent ones do, and they last considerably longer, cutting down on energy and replacement costs.
He said the Winchester Municipal Airport Authority has also applied for another $1 million to construct 12 hangar units.
If received, the total money through the state program will be $4.126 million.
Colescott said he is optimistic the city will get the money.
“We should know something by the end of next month,” he said.
At present, the airport has hangar accommodations for 36 aircraft and will be able to harbor 48 if the additional money is received.
Colescott said an overall goal is to apply for another grant, if the one in question is received, to add 12 more hangar units, setting the total at 60. He added that expanding the airport will make a difference in attracting newcomers to move to the area.
“We’d like to draw more people here,” he said. “We have people who come in here from Texas and other areas, and they want to move here.
“When they see what we have to offer, they’re impressed.”