Friday, January 23, 2015

Lease helps MX Aircraft reopen at Wilkes County Airport (KUKF), North Wilkesboro, North Carolina

The Wilkes County commissioners cleared the way for MX Aircraft to reopen at the Wilkes County Airport by approving the assignment and assumption of a lease of county-owned land beneath a hangar the company plans to occupy.

In a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved assigning the ground space lease for 48,750 square feet beneath the hangar to Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC, formed by MX owner Chris Meyer and his father, Corky Meyer of Florida, a retired Grumman Aircraft test pilot and executive.

Under the agreement, Quest for Life Church is transferring its lease of the county-owned land to Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC and Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC is subleasing it to MX. Chris Meyer is listed in the lease contract as manager of Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC.

MX Aircraft manufactured and serviced aerobatic and other high performance aircraft at the Wilkes Airport for about five years. These operations closed down about two years ago.

It was stated in the meeting Tuesday that MX is in the process of buying the hangar on the county-owned land from Quest for Life Church, represented by James Samuel Grimes as pastor of the church, for $325,000. The hangar originally belonged to Golden Needles Knitting.

County Attorney Tony Triplett said a proposed new ground space lease agreement for the 48,750 square feet of county-owned land, requested by Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC, will be on the agenda for action at the commissioners’ Feb. 2 meeting. Under this agreement, he said, Meyer Wilkes Properties LLC will lease the property from county government for 20 years, with three five-year renewals.

Triplett said a new survey of the property is needed before the new lease can be approved.

Commissioner Gary D. Blevins voted against the motion to approve the assignment and assumption of the lease. In an interview, Blevins said he voted against the motion because based on past experience with MX, he wasn’t comfortable with that use of property owned by county government.

Under a May 2009 economic investment agreement, MX Aircraft was supposed to create 10 new jobs at the airport by Dec. 31, 2016, in return for county government receiving grants of $100,000 apiece from Golden LEAF and the N.C. Rural Center for installing water and sewer lines at the airport and grading three “pads” as building sites at the airport. One was originally planned for MX.

Triplett wrote a letter to Golden LEAF in 2013 asking that jobs added by any company at the airport by the deadline be allowed instead of requiring that they all be added by MX. He told Golden LEAF that it appeared MX might not be able to remain in operation due to economic conditions and Chris Meyer’s health problems.

Golden LEAF responded by granting the request in the form of a revised agreement stating that 10 new fulltime private sector jobs with an annual salary of at least $25,000 each had to be created by any company at the airport between Jan. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2016, as a condition for the $100,000 grant. Commissioners approved the revised agreement.

The new jobs must be retained at least until Dec. 31, 2016. County government also must repay a pro-rata portion of the $100,000 to Golden LEAF, based on the number of new jobs at the airport shy of 10 by Dec. 31, 2016.

He said he’s working with N.C. Department of Commerce officials to get the same arrangement for the other $100,000 grant but hasn’t gotten it approved yet.

Triplett said the economic investment agreement with Meyer has been cancelled and that county government never paid him any money, but the water and sewer lines and building pads funded with the two $100,000 grants have been completed.

He said county officials are optimistic that Aaron Aerospace Inc. and Samaritan’s Purse—and now MX Aircraft—will help the county fulfill the obligation of creating 10 new jobs at the airport by Dec. 31, 2016. County officials said MX originally planned to employ at least 50 people at the Wilkes County Airport

The county-owned hangar that formerly was leased to MX is now leased to Aaron Aerospace, which has already created three new jobs.

Meyer said in an interview that he plans to start manufacturing racing and aerobatic planes again at the Wilkes airport in a few weeks in the hangar the commissioners acted on Tuesday night. He said he plans to add about three jobs.

He said the operation will manufacture planes with composite material parts shipped from Portland, Ore., where they are made in molds owned by Meyer.

Original article can be found at: http://www.journalpatriot.com

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