Tuesday, June 6, 2017

$6 million state grant will help Lehigh Valley International Airport (KABE) attract corporate jets



Lehigh Valley International Airport's plan to attract more corporate jets just got a $6 million boost from Pennsylvania.

The PennDOT grant announced Tuesday will help LVIA forge ahead with a $12 million plan to build a hangar designed to entice jet owners to pay big money to avoid the crowded and expensive New York air market.

With the airport out of space to take on new corporate tenants, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority has been looking for a way to finance a 53,000-square-foot hangar to be built on the southwest part of the airfield.

"This makes the project reachable," said Charles Everett Jr., authority executive director. "This will not only bring revenues to the airport, but it will bring businesses and jobs to our community."

Everett said with the grant in hand, the authority can immediately begin design and development and have a hangar large enough to handle 10 to 15 planes open late next year.

The funds are part of $10 million in aviation grants announced Tuesday by Gov. Tom Wolf. Though nine airports across the state are getting money, the LVIA grant is larger than the eight other grants combined.

The funds come from PennDOT's Bureau of Aviation through the Aviation Transportation Assistance Program, which is a capital budget grant program funded with bonds.

"Maintaining and expanding opportunities in our transportation system includes the more than 400 airports in our state," Wolf said. "Hundreds of thousands of jobs are supported by aviation in Pennsylvania and these investments will help them operate safely, expand to meet demands, or attract more growth."

LVIA is base to 110 private planes and corporate jets owned by companies like D.G. Yuengling & Son of Pottsville, and people such as Jared Isaacman, founder of the lucrative credit card payment-processing company Harbortouch, of Hanover Township, Lehigh County. Air Products and Chemicals Inc. also has two planes at LVIA, but Everett said the airport is out of suitable hangar space for such million-dollar jets.

LVIA is in a unique location to take advantage of an overcrowded New York air travel market; investment bankers and company owners can save by basing their planes in the Lehigh Valley.

By hosting the jets, LVIA not only collects hangar lease fees, but can sell fuel and maintenance to the jet owners, as well as changing them landing fees for using the airport, Everett said.

Everett has said the hangar could command as much as $700,000 per year or more in lease fees alone.



Included in the list of other grants was Braden Airpark in Forks Township, which is slated to get $325,000 to build new terminal building. The grant represents a reversal of fortunes for Braden, which the authority considered closing and selling three years ago to get money to help pay off a $26 million court-ordered debt for taking development land in the 1990. Now, with the debt paid, the authority is looking to rehabilitate the 72-acre small plane airfield that first opened in 1938.

"Not too long ago, Braden Airpark was in serious danger of being grounded for good," said Rep. Joe Emrick R-Northampton. "This grant will allow the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority to keep the facility open into its 80th anniversary next year and hopefully beyond."

Original article can be found here:  http://www.mcall.com

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