Thursday, July 11, 2013

Newport State Airport (KEFK) lands small airplane manufacturer

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports- 

NEWPORT, Vt. - The Newport State Airport is taking off. The owners of Jay Peak and Governor Peter Shumlin announced Thursday a development plan for the airport estimated at $20 million. 

"It's a new idea and it's a worldwide market," Stenger said.

German company Flight Design will expand to the Northeast Kingdom, building and shipping its two-seater plane called CTLS. The company will also open a flight training center using three of the small planes. The goal-- lure people here for a vacation where they can learn to fly.

Flight Design hopes the location will be taking off by the fall. It will be its fifth distribution center in the U.S. and will add 25 jobs to the region.

"This is about jobs and job creation, so we can take the most beautiful place in Vermont and making sure kids in the Kingdom can find jobs in the Kingdom," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

This all fits into a very big plan for the Kingdom. It's called the Economic Development Initiative, a $500 million project creating 10,000 jobs. It includes an expansion of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain, a new biotech company and redevelopment of downtown Newport. It's funded by foreign investors through the EB-5 program; in exchange for helping create jobs in rural areas, investors get a green card.

The plans at the airport are not part of the EB-5 program, but investors say they are an important part of making this program soar. Flight Design is just one piece of the airport puzzle; there are also plans for six new hangers, expanding the runway and a new terminal. The $20 million price tag is being paid for by private investors and state and federal funds. But Governor Shumlin says it's too early to tell how much it will cost taxpayers.

"Having a viable airport that can welcome commercial aviation and commercial development is all good for us," Stenger said.

The Vermont State College system is on board, planning to add an aviation program within the next three years.

The Newport Airport is still waiting for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for its runway expansion.

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