Co-ops & Community Jobs

Central EMC boosts Lee County airport expansion loan
By Renee C. Gannon
Co-ops & Community Jobs

Consolidating the N.C. Forest Resources airplane maintenance operations at the Sanford-Lee County airport’s Raleigh Executive Jetport is expected to bring jobs and expand economic opportunity in the region.

Central Electric Membership Corporation, located in Sanford, will use $800,000 in zero-interest USDA Rural Economic Development loans and grants to assist the Sanford-Lee County Airport Authority in its expansion of the Raleigh Executive Jetport. The funds will help consolidate and relocate of the North Carolina Department of Forest Resources' airplane maintenance services at the Jetport.

Approximately $300,000 of the funding is a revolving grant — once the money is paid back to Central EMC, the cooperative can re-distribute it for other economic development projects in its service area. Central EMC will also match the grant with $60,000 in funding, which will be deposited into the EMC's revolving loan fund and loaned out within three years. Further, these funds will be matched with $200,000 from the Sanford-Lee County Airport Authority.

The Raleigh Executive Jetport is a growing part of Lee County's economy, with seven air industry businesses already located at the airport. In addition to the companies directly located at the site, the Jetport supports other Lee County businesses by providing convenient access to air transportation. This project will create jobs at a municipally operated airport and will help attract additional private aircraft to the airport.

The airport expansion project will create or relocate 14 direct N.C. Forest Service jobs in Lee County, as well as 50 construction jobs during the project's stages.

The loans will fund construction of three new buildings at the airport: a 10,000-square-foot hanger capable of housing maintenance operations, a 2,500-square-foot storage facility, and a 2,000-square-foot office complex for Forest Service workers. The Forest Service plans to lease the buildings on a 30-year contract with the Airport Authority, and headquarter five planes at the Jetport, with another 25 flown in for regular maintenance.

The Forest Service operates more than 30 aircraft stationed at 11 facilities throughout the state. To streamline its operations and reduce overhead costs, the Forest Service is consolidating its statewide aircraft maintenance operations at Sanford-Lee County.

Stationing the Forest Service aircraft at the Jetport will also increase the airport's fuel sales, its primary source of revenue, enabling the airport to make future investments to attract private capital and create jobs. Finally, the additional capacity added through this project should attract more transient aircraft to the Jetport.

About the Author

Renee C. Gannon is the senior associate editor of Carolina Country.

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