Friday, December 21, 2012

Jacksonville Aviation Authority hopes $1 million makeover will fill vacant hangar

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It could mean millions of dollars and lots of high-paying jobs at Jacksonville International Airport. A lucrative defense contract to build state-of-the-art fighter planes in the River City is on hold. But Action News has learned, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is still spending more than $1 million to renovate the hangar where assembly is supposed to take place.

Air Force officials awarded Embraer, an international defense company, a $355 million contract to build A-29 Super Tucano attack planes for the military.

But rival company, Kansas-based Hawker-Beechcraft, stepped in protesting that it was wrongly excluded from vying for the contract. Air Force officials in January announced that the war planes were back open for bidding.

Embraer had stated it would build that military might at a hangar in Jacksonville. It's an operation that promised to deliver 50 high-paying assembly jobs to Jacksonville International Airport.

Instead of collecting monthly rent from a private company, JAA's only empty hangar is used for a far less lucrative event once a year.

"Last year and this year we were hoping this was the last time we would be using it for the holiday party because we would be having a paying tenant in here," said Michael Stewart with JAA.

After 15 years of sitting empty, 2012 brought hope that the 27,000-square-foot facility would house the production of Air Force warplanes.

"We are cautiously optimistic on getting them here because of the size of the company," said Stewart. "The potential of them bringing more business to Jacksonville is really what's exciting."

Even though the deal is far from done, JAA is giving the hangar a top-to-bottom renovation priced at $1.1 million.

From refinishing floors and windows to painting and replacing insulation, Stewart says the million-dollar makeover is money well spent. "It would shorten the timeline of them getting in because the work needs to be done and if we don't get it, it puts us in a position to market this much more aggressively for potential tenants."

The Department of Defense expects to make a decision on the fighter plane contract next month, possibly Jan. 10. 


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