$8M aviation deal is a go

Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority Board Chairman Denny Granum speaks at a news conference announcing the expansion of West Star Aviation in Grand Junction. From left are; West Star General Manager Dave Krogman, airport director of Aviation Rex Tippetts, West Star CEO Bob Rasberry, Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kelly Flenniken and GJEP Board Chairman Jay Seaton.



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Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority Board Chairman Denny Granum speaks at a news conference announcing the expansion of West Star Aviation in Grand Junction. From left are; West Star General Manager Dave Krogman, airport director of Aviation Rex Tippetts, West Star CEO Bob Rasberry, Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kelly Flenniken and GJEP Board Chairman Jay Seaton.

A plan hatched 10 months ago for Grand Junction Regional Airport to build a new hangar for West Star Aviation was heralded with a celebration on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, members of the Grand Junction Regional Airport’s Airport Authority board gave the nod for Director of Aviation Rex Tippetts to craft a contract with West Star for the $8 million building the company will use to paint airplanes. The expansion project is expected to create up to 150 jobs at an average annual salary of $52,000.

Dave Krogman, general manager of Grand Junction’s West Star operations, told the audience at Tuesday’s afternoon event that people at first wondered whether the company would have enough business to provide airplane maintenance in the 7-year-old hangar folks gathered in for the ceremony.

“The minute the asphalt dried, we rolled 12 airplanes in here. The facility was full,” he said.

Krogman said the company needs a new facility to accommodate larger airplanes because they are becoming a bigger part of the business.

“As it is in any business, you’re either growing or shrinking,” he said. “If we can’t do the paint jobs on these airplanes, it’s going to hurt us.”

The Airport Authority and airport staff worked with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Colorado Aeronautical Board to bid on West Star’s project. To pay for the loan, the airport will collect $110,500 a month from West Star for about 7 years to be applied to a 15-year loan with a 3 percent interest rate. After the loan is paid off, the airport will own the building and collect lease payments on the 45,500-square-foot hanger.

“This is another opportunity to build another building and create more long-term revenue for the airport,” Tippetts said at Tuesday’s morning meeting.

At the morning meeting, Airport Authority member Steve Wood said he wanted the board to further question the deal, as he heard little talk about the plan and just received a packet of information about the project on Monday. Information on the project is on the website for the Grand Junction Regional Airport, under the May 7, 2013, heading for board packets.

Wood abstained from voting to move the project forward because Tuesday’s 8:30 a.m. meeting was noticed 24 hours in advance, not the three days in advance for special meetings required by the Airport Authority’s charter. Wood said any decision made Tuesday could be legally challenged.

“At the end of the day why are we picking up the skin here? I want to have more of West Star in the game,” he said.

Granum said the Airport Authority and airport staff could not release West Star’s financial details without a vote to go forward with the plan, but he believes “they have a sound business plan to make this thing work.”

“This is a deal where there’s an opportunity for 150 jobs, and the city and county, it’s not costing them anything,” Granum said.



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