PEDC decides to make Cox Field Airport its prime economic development area

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.

The Paris Economic Development Corporation's headquarters is housed here in the old train depot on Bonham Street.

The Paris Economic Development Corporation’s headquarters are housed here in the old train depot on Bonham Street.

“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

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Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.