MUSCLE SHOALS — A $1.3 million grant will help the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport continue the development of an industrial park for aviation or aerospace related businesses.
Airport Director Barry Griffith said the money is being provided by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Alabama Department of Transportation.
The project is the second phase of the development of the “southeast quadrant,” a section of airport property adjacent to the Shoals Research Air Park off Sixth Street in Muscle Shoals.
“The Airport Authority, through a cooperative arrangement with the Shoals Economic Development Authority, actively pursued funding for the proposed development of a hangar complex designed to attract a potential maintenance, repair and overhaul operator for aviation related products,” Griffith said.
Griffith said the second phase involves construction of a new taxiway and apron area for the future development of corporate hangars and T-hangars.
The first project involved grading the property, constructing drainage structures and building an unimproved road from the development to the end of Counts Drive in the Research Air Park. An electronically controlled security gate will allow access to the airport park.
“The second phase is primarily the infrastructure needed to accommodate the corporate hangars and the T-hangars,” Griffith said.
It will include the construction of a taxiway entrance and taxi lanes, taxiway lighting and an apron for aircraft parking. It will include landscaping and erosion control measures.
SEDA Executive Director Forrest Wright said the organization is interested in helping the airport recruit aviation or aerospace related industry but has not yet committed to building a hangar.
“Back in 2009, the airport approached us about possibly building a speculative hanger out there for the purpose of trying to recruit BRAC-related operations to the area,” Wright said. “In 2009, BRAC was defined differently than it is today.”
BRAC, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, is the government organization involved in the closure and realignment of U.S. military installations. At one point, the Shoals was expected to benefit from a realignment of military personnel and possibly industry to the Huntsville area.
Wright said SEDA considered building a hangar once the building pads and apron were completed at the airport. He said the SEDA board would likely revisit the issue as the airport progresses with the project.
Griffith said construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in the middle of November and be completed by the end of January.
The project could be delayed until spring because of November and December being typically rainy months.