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Community leaders gather for airport project groundbreaking
Tuesday was described as a terrific day for Yuma, and not just because of the balmy weather Yumans enjoy in November.
Dignitaries gathered to throw the first shovels of dirt for a $5 million multitenant hangar project at the Yuma International Airport that is expected to bring economic development and jobs to the community.
The occasion was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Aviation Industrial Center to be constructed within the Defense Contractors Complex the Yuma County Airport Authority is developing on the west side of the airport off 40th Street. The 32,000-square-foot AIC will have an office complex with two bay hangars for both short- and long-term use by defense contractors doing work for Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and Yuma Proving Ground.
It is the latest project in a list that grew out of the airport board's vision three years ago of reaching across the runway to assist MCAS as the air station prepares for the arrival of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The first aircraft is expected to arrive this month; ultimately MCAS will be home to five F-35 squadrons and one operational test and evaluation squadron.
“What a terrific day,” said Yuma County Administrator Robert Pickels. He recalled being nearby for a similar ceremony in early 2009 for a hangar now leased by NASA for parachute testing at YPG.
That hangar is just west of where the AIC will be located. Other recently completed projects nearby are the new FedEx building and the Customs and Border Protection Aviation Complex. Two other hangar projects are under construction.
“We've gone through challenging economic times,” Pickels continued. “But we've seen some growth that other areas haven't, and that's a tribute to the vision of the airport authority. By building this facility, we're inviting technological advancements that will bring economic development and jobs. I look forward to seeing what the final result will be.”
Julie Engel, president and CEO of Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp., said she's already had a meeting with a contractor who is interested in the building.
“This is a very exciting project,” she said. “This day will be huge for Yuma.”
The project is an example of how partnerships work in Yuma, said Rob Ingold, president of the airport board. He noted that the AIC came about through the joint effort of the airport authority, the city of Yuma, Yuma County, GYEDC and Alan Pruitt of Western Arizona Economic Development District, who was instrumental in obtaining a $3.8 million grant from the Economic Development Administration to help fund the project.
Ingold also noted with pride that the team developing the AIC is 100 percent local, providing jobs for Yuma's professional firms and construction industry.
The facility was designed by Chris Thompson of Patterson Thompson Architects, and the construction contract was awarded last month to Yuma contractor Eckard Commercial Construction. Other local companies working on the project include NEI, Sternco and JOL.
“This a local project from start to finish,” said contractor Troy Eckard, with the exception of a few specialty subcontractors. “But it's virtually all local firms. We have a lot of talented individuals here. It attests to our ability to handle a large project.”
The project is expected to take about 10 months. Once construction starts, the public will be able to watch the progress through a construction camera on the airport's website. The project's progress also will be featured on the airport's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/flyyuma.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6853. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSJoyceLobeck or on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.