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County plans public hearing about LEDA funds

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Submitted Graphic The county intends to act as the fiscal agent for state funds for the expansion of Arizona-based Ascent Aviation Services LLC to the Roswell Air Center. The state funds will be used for lease abatement at the Air Center site near West Earl Cummings Loop and Mathis Street.

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Chaves County plans to serve as the fiscal agent for up to $4 million in state funds to support the expansion of Ascent Aviation Services to the Roswell Air Center and has scheduled a public hearing about the topic next month.

Chaves County Manager Bill Williams said that local officials have agreed that the county will serve as the government entity that receives and disburses the state Local Economic Development Act monies, with released funding tied to job creation benchmarks.

“It is only to be used for lease abatement,” Williams said about the LEDA funds.

Ascent Aviation Services is a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business that works on commercial aircraft. It has been operating in Arizona for about 40 years and now has locations at the Tucson International Airport and Pinal Air Park in Marana.

It announced in September 2020 that it would be opening an MRO operation in Roswell, with two phases. Its second phase, to begin after three years of local operations, is expected to involve a second hangar and an expansion of operations to the conversion of commercial airliners into cargo and freight planes.

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Company president David T. Querio has said that Ascent Aviation plans to hire about 100 mechanics and support personnel in Roswell within the first year, with a total payroll of $7 million. After five years, the company expects to have about 356 employees and an annual payroll of about $22 million.

“The reason that LEDA is interested is these are not entry-level jobs,” Williams said. “They are aviation jobs with careers, futures. They will put a lot of money into our local economy, which is why we are very excited to assist with the LEDA portion of this.”

The new hangar, meant to accommodate the large aircraft in use today, will be placed on city-owned property at the Roswell Air Center near West Earl Cummings Loop and Mathis Street.

The ordinance that will be considered by the Chaves County Board of Commissioners following the public hearing is expected to be drafted by Monday, Williams said. The hearing is scheduled to occur Thursday, Nov. 18, during the next Chaves County Board of Commissioners meeting.

At a meeting this week of the city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission, Armstrong Consultants Inc., the engineering firm overseeing site work for the hangar, said that groundbreaking should occur by March 2022.

Originally Ascent Aviation had wanted to be operating in Roswell by April 2022 but COVID-related delays and negotiations that involve the city, the county, the hangar manufacturer and Ascent Aviation have delayed site preparation work.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.