The Raleigh County Memorial Airport, with guidance from the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) and Region 1 Planning and Development Council, has accepted a $7,729,959.00 bid from A.L.L. Construction, Inc., of Mount Storm, W.Va., to conduct site development for the new 105-acre industrial project at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport. The project, which has the potential to be a major aviation and economic development hub for southern West Virginia, is estimated to take nearly a year to complete. After the NRGRDA’s acceptance of the bid April 27, site preparations began on May 1.
Jina Belcher, NRGRDA Executive Director, said this project is a model for the state as the first proactive site readiness initiative. “This is one of the most complex yet rewarding projects we’ve led,” said Belcher. “Many people and funding programs came together in a positive way to make it possible.” This past state legislative session, an economic development site readiness program and funding was put in place, making future projects easier to develop and adding to the state’s job creation assets.
Belcher listed major developments to heighten progress on the development of the Raleigh County Memorial Airport, including:
· The Raleigh County Commission, in a special meeting March 14, approved a special allocation of $544,000 to complete the funding for the project.
· Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito announced February 27 a $1 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to expand the airport terminal to accommodate a 50 seat hold room, accessible restrooms, and several sustainable design concepts to promote energy efficiency.
· Progress continues on the aviation maintenance training program led by New River Community and Technical College, including a training hangar to be located adjacent to the airport.
· Local, state and federal leaders jointly announced on February 4, 2021, the last piece of financing for the $8.3 million project – a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).
· Additional major funding awards include Infrastructure Jobs Development Council (IJDC) funding from the State of West Virginia ($3,239,000), Appalachian Regional Commission funding ($1.75 million) and U.S. Economic Development Administration ($1.75 million) will add land, a new road connecting the airport to rail transportation, and new sites for interested companies.
· Other sources of funding bring the total investment in this project to $8,379,000:
Raleigh County Commission – $535,000
Appalachian Power – $200,000
Pendleton Community Bank – $1 million interim project financing
Raleigh County Memorial Airport – Federal Aviation Administration – $75,000
Raleigh County Memorial Airport – $535,000
Belcher said bids for the airport industrial park site work opened on February 23 coming in slightly higher than expected, making the Raleigh County Commission’s special allocation “essential to the project’s ability to move forward on time and on budget.”
“The airport is poised for a major influx of new businesses and increased air travel thanks to the leadership of our long-time airport manager Tom Cochran and the infusion of multiple sources of funding to create site-ready land to recruit aerospace and cargo firms,” said Belcher.
“Raleigh County Memorial Airport is blessed with ample land and infrastructure to attract aerospace industry businesses to southern West Virginia,” Belcher added. “The airport is located three miles east of Beckley and about 30 minutes from the Virginia border, offering daily commercial flights as well as private and charter options. In addition, RCMA is open 24 hours a day, employs 12 people, features two runways and two industrial parks, and is located near three interstate highways. The airport is only one mile from the convergence of I-64 and I-77, and one hour from I-81.”
Belcher added that the region, which is home to West Virginia Institute of Technology and New River Community and Technical College, offers two- and four-year academic programs as well as an abundant labor supply for companies seeking new or expanded facilities. She said, “these training and education opportunities were part of the reason we were awarded the AEROReady Community Certification, enhancing workforce potential in seven counties.” Those counties include Raleigh, Fayette, Summers, Nicholas, Wyoming, Mercer, and McDowell.