(02/25/14) - An Iosco County airport is looking forward to a big boost from the
state. It will means hundreds of new jobs.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation made the announcement on Tuesday, in East Lansing.
The money is coming out of the Michigan Strategic Fund. It's going to support several big projects across the state.
Detroit, Ann Arbor and Midland are just a few areas that will receive support from the state.
In Midland, they'll be knocking down a few buildings and building a brand new 65,000 square foot building on East Main Street. It'll be a mixed use building for extended-stay hotel suites, apartments, a restaurant and office space.
Maybe the biggest news of this announcement - Kalitta Air, which operates out of the Oscoda-Wurtsmith airport - will be getting a $2 million performance based grant. That will go toward a $9.7 million project to build a brand new, 80,000 square foot, airport hangar - and bring about 200 jobs.
Ground was broken last year on the project, but, as anticipated, little work happened over the winter. Now, Kalitta is waiting on Mother Nature to let them start working again.
"We anticipate the hanger will be completed in August and we should start hiring additional personnel in late June," said Pete Sanderlin, vice president of Kalitta Air.
The new hangar will go right next door to the air carrier's other 80,000 square foot hangar. It was opened in 2008 and was designed to help the company repair airplanes. The new hanger, which will be the eighth on Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport property, will allow for even larger airplanes.
They work three shifts, day and night - fixing airplane, after airplane on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, at Kalitta Air.
"Nobody can replace the U.S. Air Force, but you know, we do have a lot of hard working people here," said Donald Nolan, director of heavy maintenance.
Right Kalitta, employs around 700 people at this facility.
"We are actually actively recruiting and looking for other maintenance providers to come in and make us a well-rounded aircraft maintenance facility," said Gary Kellan, airport manager.
Many people believe Kalitta Air, being one of the area's largest employers, sets the tone for the rest of the community.
Since the Air Force base closed, it's been tough in Oscoda. Residents say Kalitta is a bright spot in the economy.
At nearby Wiltse's, the new jobs are the talk of the town.
"Brings business to the community like crazy," said Tammy Robinson, of Wiltse's Brew Pub & Family Restaurant.
Tammy has been serving customers for 10 years at Wiltse's. When the Great Recession hit and Kalitta had to layoff workers, she felt it, too.
"Definitely, you know, slowed down a little bit. A lot of, I knew a lot of people who moved away. They had to get a different job somewhere else," she said.
While the economy still isn't perfect, the township supervisor says unemployment is at 12.6 percent.
Many believe Kalitta's investment for the hangar will go a long way.
"More people we can get working here, it has to help," said Carol Klempert.
Right now, Kalitta employees have a payroll that adds up to around $40 million. Add up to 200 more workers and that could do good things at Kalitta, Wiltse's - and everywhere else.
"You know that there will be more people walking around," Klempert said.
In total, the MEDC says the funding will generate millions of dollars in capital investment across the state and create hundreds of jobs.
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