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Developers to be sought for airport projects

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Investment funds and Western LLC, a design and build company, have created the American Corporate Airport Partnership, which finances and builds projects for aviation customers, says Michael Bergfield, director of business development for Western. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Requests for Information to be issued if city manager approves

A city commission has recommended that managers of the Roswell International Air Center issue two requests for information as they proceed with plans for significant building projects.

A wide-body hangar project for large commercial aircraft and new T-hangars for small private airplanes have been studied by Air Center staff and consultants for several months, and now city leaders are ready to explore which companies have interest in and the capability to finance, build or occupy the projects.

“I personally think that you are five steps ahead of the competition right now in terms of the information you have,” said Dennis Corsi, president of Armstrong Consultants Inc. “You are ready to go to market.”

A vote to approve the issuance of requests for information, contingent on the approval of City Manager Joe Neeb, occurred Thursday during a City of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission meeting, chaired by Mayor Dennis Kintigh. According to city staff, an RFI can be prepared and issued for under $1,000.

Large hangar plans presented

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Corsi gave an update on Armstrong’s contracted work to develop designs, initial site planning and market analysis for a commercial hangar to hold one 777 airplane or several 737s or other wide-bodied aircraft, as well as provide office, shop and storage space.

Prior discussions by commission members concluded that existing hangars at the airfield, most built from 1941 to 1967 when it was a military air base, are too small for today’s larger aircraft. They also lack structural integrity or the type of electrical, fire suppression and clean environments needed.

An initial design for a $25 million to $26 million large hangar, with planning done so that designs can be varied to meet a specific company’s needs, is seen as means to encourage large aviation corporations to locate at the air center.

The ultimate goal is to boost employment and economic development in the area. But the question is, who can afford to build or lease such a building? Costs could be anywhere from $10 a square foot to $25 a square foot depending on size, design, location on the airfield, loan terms and available economic incentives.

“The ultimate goal is to find that end user,” said Corsi. “That’s where the next steps really come in, to look at the market. Who is interested and who is willing to come in? They have come and kicked the tires before. No one has taken a bite of the apple. But they haven’t had the information that you now have.”

One group that finances, builds and markets is the American Corporate Airport Partnership, which is made up of investment funds and Western LLC, a design and build company based near Denver, Colorado, and specializing in aviation-related developments.

Michael Bergfield, business development director for Western, said the American Corporate Airport Partnership has allocated $2 billion for airport projects.

“We are not operators. We don’t come in and run terminals or anything like that. We don’t run hangars,” he said. “What we do is provide the financial funding. We do the design and build. We do the marketing for it.”

He said that the company’s prior projects include executive terminals, hangars and corporate aviation campuses. While the company has concentrated its work in Texas and Colorado, it also has completed or is working on projects in North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona and other states.

New T-Hangars envisioned

Air Center Director Scott Stark has talked frequently about the need to replace the 10 T-hangars that private aircraft owners rent at the airfield.

According to comments at prior meetings, the hangars can accommodate only single-engine planes and are located on the east side of the airfield near areas where maintenance and repair organizations (MROs) store aircraft parts, making it difficult at times for pilots to navigate in and out of the hangars. Some hangar tenants also have said that the hangars need to be upgraded.

Commission members have agreed that ideally new hangars should be funded and built by third-party developers.

Now that Stark and other staff have identified suitable airfield sites and developed some ideas about designs and potential costs for the hangars, they are ready to search for potential developers, with the RFI as an initial step.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.