Aviation firm will go ahead with expansion

West Star to build paint hangar despite legal troubles at airport

An FBI investigation into financial wrongdoing at Grand Junction Regional Airport did not prevent West Star Aviation from securing a loan last month to build a long-planned, 40,000-square-foot paint hangar there, company officials announced.

The amount of the loan was not disclosed, but company officials said building costs exceeded by a significant amount the $8 million originally estimated.

Tectonics Design Management of Denver will break ground on the project by May 1, West Star CEO Robert Rasberry said.

“I am going to build it,” Rasberry said. “We just borrowed the money and we’re going to build it. It’s the right thing to do.”

Tectonics said it already solicited bids from local subcontractors for the concrete, excavation and electrical aspects of the job, said Mark Stormberg, Tectonics president.

As much work as possible will go to local trades, Stormberg said.

“We’re happy to be in Grand Junction,” Rasberry said. “We have great people and a great work ethic. I can’t tell you anything bad about Grand Junction.”

West Star did not officially notify the airport authority of its decision, but board chairman Steve Wood said members were aware West Star was working to arrange financing.

“I think I can say with confidence that the board will be unanimously pleased at this development,” Wood said. “We’re all very happy that they’re in Grand Junction and have been for a long time. We think it’s good for the airport and good for the community.”

Rasberry said his company will lose money every day the project is delayed.

“We need it to continue growing,” he said. “It’s a very important piece of our future because so many of the airplanes are so large today, none of us can put them in the small paint hangars.”

There are a few other large paint hangars around the world, but the large hangars “are incredibly expensive to build and very few (aviation maintenance companies) will,” Rasberry said.

“It will drive business and employment in Grand Junction,” he said.

Company officials projected last year that the new hangar would allow West Star to expand its operations and eventually create as many as 150 jobs, each paying up to $52,000 a year.

West Star already spent more than $600,000 to get final plans and designs in order, money it probably could have gotten back had the project been canceled, Rasberry said.

The original agreement between West Star and the airport authority called on the authority to purchase the finished building for around $8 million. The authority would then lease the building back in exchange for rent of around $113,000 per month.

That deal is no more, Rasberry said.

The airport authority is not currently able to borrow money because of the FBI investigation, Wood said.

Instead, West Star will build, own and operate the hangar for the next 50 years, the time limit on the ground lease between West Star and the authority. At the end of 50 years, West Star will hand keys to the building over to the airport authority, he said.

Tectonic specializes in the design and construction of corporate flight departments, fixed base operations, aviation completion and maintenance facilities, aviation paint hangars and commercial facilities, Stormberg said.

The company’s design method combines architecture with pre-construction services to facilitate the owner’s goals “on time and on budget,” he said.

“Those buildings last a long time,” Rasberry said. “So, like it or not, that’s still a good deal for them. We’ll take care of it. We’ll keep it in tip-top shape.”


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