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Cox Field Airport has become a prime economic development target now that the Paris City council has put in motion the extension of water and sewer to the airport.
“Our airport facility would be the envy of communities all around,” Bruce Carr, member of the Paris Economic Development Board, said Tuesday after hearing a presentation by City Engineer Shawn Napier on plans for the airport.
Napier said there are more than 300 acres at the airport available for economic development.
“With no water or sewer, it’s tough to build there,” airport manager Jerry Richie said.
But that will change when the city extends its water and sewer lines 3.2 miles to the east from the Morningside residential addition in southeast Paris.
Napier said the city council will be deciding soon on a consultant to begin planning the extension of water and sewer.
Once the work starts, Napier said, “we’re looking at anywhere from nine months to a year and a half or two years” before the infrastructure would be in place at the airport.
PEDC Executive Director Steve Gilbert noted that he recently came off the city’s Airport Advisory Board.
“I remember when I was on it, and one thing I don’t think has changed, or will change, and that is, all the board members have been passionate about the airport as a ripe development opportunity,” Gilbert said.
“We’ve really got 165 acres on the northwest portion of the airport property,” with access to Airport Road, Napier said, plus 63 acres reserved for airport-related development, and 92 acres for any type of development, whether distribution or manufacture or other.
And there’s currently a waiting list of more than 10 for hangars, whenever more can be built, Napier noted.
Billy Copeland, president of the Airport Advisory Board, said Cox Field has a need for companies that service airport customers — maintenance mechanics, upholstery, painting and avionics, for example.
“We need to put a play book together on what we could offer a prospect, such as what incentives we could offer, in addition to water, sewer, electrical, possibly gas,” Napier said.
“You’re talking about a development plan that the city would put some skin in, that the PEDC would put some skin in, and then we could start to figure out how to market that,” Gilbert said.
“Correct,” Napier said.
“So let’s just say that in a few months’ time, we put together this package and we have every priority issue and plan of action identified to make this site-ready for development,” Gilbert said.
“What we would do then is identify aviation trade shows, manufacturing trade shows, and so forth, where we would have access to aviation-related consultants,” Gilbert said.
“So we can identify those potential individuals and start to get information to them, and create a relationship with them, and maybe go to meet with them, or bring them here, so that we are on their radar screen,” Gilbert said.
The PEDC board decided that in addition to its regularly scheduled meeting in January, it will also meet jointly with the airport advisory board at its next scheduled meeting on Jan. 16.
“We all agree this is a key concept for Paris and we need to work on developing it,” PEDC board chairwoman Rebecca Clifford said.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra