July 21, 2008

Airport, Banks Work Together on New Hangars

By Joyce Lobeck, The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

Jul. 21--Yuma International Airport has taken a major step forward in its efforts to be a good neighbor to the military side of operations.

During a ceremony Monday morning, airport and banking officials signed a stack of paperwork that sets the stage for construction of two new aircraft maintenance hangars at the airport, hangars the Yuma County Airport Authority is developing to support the region's defense industry.

"We are particularly proud of the local participation in this project," said Craig Williams, airport director. Financing is being provided by two local banks: 1st Bank Yuma and Foothills Bank. In addition, Architecture West, a division of locally owned Nicklaus Engineering, is the architect.

The hangar project is the culmination of a long-term effort to establish an environment where the airport can "add value" to the activity at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and Yuma Proving Ground, Williams said.

"We're investing in the future of the defense industry here," he said. "We want to provide support to the defense contractors who support MCAS and YPG. We want to be that third party."

Potential tenants of the planned hangars might be a company testing Army helicopters at YPG or contractors involved in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin. One version would replace the AV-8 Harrier now being used by the Marines.

For the last couple of years, the airport has been working on the infrastructure for the planned defense contractor complex on the west side of the airport off 40th Street. Last summer, a $2 million aircraft parking apron was constructed. Currently, Desert Road Builders is working on a $2.6 million taxiway rehabilitation.

"Now we're ready to build the hangars, " Williams said. "That is the final building block."

The next task will be to market the space, he said.

He's confident there is a real need, given the requests the airport frequently receives for space. For example, he said, a contractor working on a NASA project at YPG requested hangar space.

"We couldn't help him," Williams said, "but with the new hangars we will be able to."

The hangars are expected to cost $1.5 million each.

"The borrowing came locally," said Karl Moedl, president of the Yuma County Airport Authority board, which manages Yuma International Airport.

"We went out to bid," Moedl said. "At the end of the day, it was two local banks."

1st Bank Yuma is the lead bank in the transaction, with Foothills Bank participating because of the size.

The total financing package is for $6.4 million. In addition to the hangar funding, that includes $2.3 million to refinance existing debt and $1 million for a revolving line of credit to serve as a bridge while the airport is waiting for grant money from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

"We're very happy to be able to do this," said Doug Pearson, vice president of 1st Bank Yuma. "1st Bank is a community bank and I think this airport expansion is a good thing for the airport and Yuma itself. The hangars should be very helpful in attracting new business to the area."

Added Terry Farr, vice president and senior lending officer for Foothills Bank: "This is a commitment to the community on both our parts for the greater good of the community. All the financing is coming from local deposits of both banks."

-- Joyce Lobeck can be reached at [email protected] or 539-6853.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

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