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Board authorizes IDB application for $175,000 state grant to create flight training academy at airport

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has unanimously authorized an application for a $175,000 state grant to establish a flight training academy at the Millington Regional Jetport.
Board members took the action during their Aug. 11 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Chris Ford and seconded by Alderman Mike Caruthers.
Shortly before its vote, the board heard a presentation by Charles Gulotta, executive director of the Millington Industrial Development Board and Millington Area Chamber of Commerce, and Jetport Director Roy Remington.
Gulotta said they have been working with Crew Training International, a $40 million Germantown-based company that has made a “commitment” for economic development of the jetport.
He said CTI has a “wonderful vision” to help transform the jetport from a “very old facility” developed more than 70 years ago into a “very up-to-date,” modern facility with new infrastructure in place.
Because CTI wants to establish a location in Hangar N-7, Gulotta said the Millington Municipal Airport Authority has made “financial commitments” to renovate the building.
He noted that the company is also interested in constructing three residential facilities or “dormitories,” at an approximate cost of $5.5 million to $6 million, on property that the IDB owns.
Although the IDB would like to sell that property, Gulotta acknowledged that there are some “restrictions” on it.
He noted that, “for years,” the Navy put “termite poisons” in the ground and sprayed for bugs.
So, when it deeded the property to the IDB in 1999, the Navy told the city that there could be no residential development on it.
Gulotta said the Navy’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission office was “very cooperative” when he asked how the city could either “remove or modify” this restriction. BRACC sent him documents explaining how cities in Indiana, Illinois and Texas have done it.
Although certain “procedures” are required, Gulotta said they have begun and are “well under way.” One is to test the soils for remnants of pesticides and vapors that might be collecting underground.
Noting that the IDB paid more than $16,000 for that study, he said the result is a 90-to-95-percent “clean bill of health.” So, the procedure is under way to do the paperwork to modify the “non-residential” restrictions.
Because Funafuti Street connects Hangar N-7 to the site where CTI wants to build the dormitories, Gulotta said it must be “reconstructed” with the installation of curbs and gutters. He asked the board for authorization to apply for a $250,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority for that project.
But before CTI can construct the three dormitories, Gulotta said, the city must extend its water, sewer and gas lines to the site from Dakar Street at an estimated cost of slightly more than $180,000.
Because of “compelling safety reasons” as well as “aesthetics,” Gulotta said CTI has agreed to help the city bury its overhead utility lines underground on the site. Memphis Light, Gas & Water has estimated the cost at $50,000.
“The state of Tennessee said initially that it will give Millington $150,000,” he noted. “If we’re going to bury the utility lines, there wouldn’t be enough to carry that out with a $180,000 cost for extending water, sewer and gas, and also with a $150,000 grant.”
Because Millington has not received state economic development grants in a long time, Gulotta said he asked the state to increase the grant to $175,000. He was told to prepare and submit the application, and the state will “take a close look” at it.
He said CTI has agreed to provide $25,000 to help bury the utility lines. That leaves a local matching requirement of $30,670 that the board voted to provide.
“Once the dormitories are built,” he told the board members, “we think the city will be receiving about $30,000 in income. So, you’ll get your money back in approximately one year. And after that, it will be sort of profit.”
Remington said the airport authority is on a “mission” to grow the industrial tax base of Millington.
“We think the airport is one of the greatest assets that this community has,” he noted. “And we intend to leverage it to the best of our abilities to bring jobs, growth and prosperity to this town.”
He said establishing a CTI flight training academy at the jetport will bring 75 jobs, 100 students a year and 30 based aircraft that will be part of the “transportation infrastructure” in the city.
To obtain support for the project from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Remington said he and Gulotta used their own money to have an economic impact study conducted. The results show that the project will have a $14 million annual economic impact on the city.
From TDOT, they requested and received a $1.3 million grant to renovate Hangar N-7. And because the grant requires a 50-percent local match, the airport authority found slightly more than $500,000 to “put toward this initiative.”
“We issued the notice to bidders today,” Remington said. “And by the beginning of next month, we hope to have bids in hand to start the first stage of this development project.”
Because N-7 will be the “base of operations” for the flight school, he said it will include a large bay hangar where the aircraft will be stored and worked on, a “first-class” testing center where the students can take online courses, and “breakout rooms” where they can meet individually with their flight instructors to review each day’s lessons.
South of Eniwetok Street, there will be what Remington called a “multi-purpose” building that is neither a dormitory nor a classroom. It will have a dining facility where the students can “relax a bit” and spend time with one another.
Remington said part of the mission that he and Gulotta are undertaking is to leverage any economic development funds they have access to, and do everything within their power to really develop this “gem” that the city has into what they believe it is capable of being.
“We’ve defined and over-defined all of the things that we’re looking at,” he told the board members. “But I just want to give you a sense of what we’re working on and some of the promise that it holds for us here.”

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