Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport lands $4 million grant to redevelop former National Guard site
Air maintenance firm West Star Aviation is eyeing additional expansion at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport to increase its footprint and employment, an official said Monday.
West Star, already undergoing an expansion to reach a goal of employing 225 workers by 2020 at the airport, supported efforts by the airport to recently land a $4 million state grant to redevelop the vacant, 13-acre former Air National Guard site.
The grant, garnered last month by the airport, will help ready the old Guard property to meet West Star's potential future needs, airport CEO Terry Hart told a meeting of the Airport Authority.
Work on the Guard tract located on the east side of the main runway, such as tearing down existing buildings and prepping the parcel for future aircraft hangars, is expected to start later this year, Hart said.
West Star spokeswoman Debi Cunningham said West Star doesn't have an expansion plan for the Guard property. But if it's available and there's a need for another expansion, the site could be a fit, she said.
West Star now is operating from one existing hangar and building two more at the airport in a $20 million expansion project that started last year. It expects to have up to 140 people employed at the airport by about year's end.
Cunningham said when the two hangars are complete, West Star plans to let business stabilize and the company will decide on even more expansion then.
Hart said West Star, which came to airport in 2015, eventually wants to ramp up its Chattanooga operation to the size of a pair of similar facilities in Illinois and Colorado.
The company employs 380 people in Grand Junction, Colo., and 300 in East Alton, Ill., Cunningham said.
When work is finished on the two hangars under construction later this year, the company expects to add between 50 and 75 more workers to the 68 people it already employs at the airport, she said.
West Star Aviation recently inked a deal with a key jet-maker that will bring more business to Chattanooga and support the company's current expansion in the city.
West Star has finalized a service center agreement with private business aircraft maker Embraer Executive Jets for work in Chattanooga, Cunningham said.
"It's new business to Chattanooga," she said. While owners of Embraer jets could have come to West Star in Chattanooga in the past for minor maintenance, now the company has all the approvals for work on the aircraft.
"We're in perfect line with the manufacturer," she said.