NORTHFIELD — Atlantic County freeholders passed an ordinance Tuesday to back $5.75 million in bonds to build a hangar at Atlantic City International Airport, potentially bringing 125 jobs in aviation maintenance and repair to the area.
“We have been going through our process to make sure the county is adequately protected,” said John Lamey, executive director at the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, which is building the hangar.
He said ACIA has been negotiating a term sheet with Elevate Jet that would cover the facility’s rental and conditions of the deal. Lamey said Elevate Jet is very close to signing the deal to bring its charter airplane maintenance business to the airport.
“Once it’s up, I hope it’s not something sitting there. Hoping and praying we get someone,” said Freeholder Ernest Coursey.
“We are close to finalizing the deal terms,” Lamey said. “The company would like us to move as quickly as possible. We anticipate they will be occupying in October of next year.”
Lamey called it an important project to the economic development strategy for the county, citing a 2015 report for the county by AngelouEconomics that identified the aviation sector as the most promising industry for diversifying the county economy.
The ACIA, with the financial backing of the county, built the first building in the National Aviation Research and Technology Park, Lamey said, and the county is “advancing its aviation academy with educational partners. We are going to generate the workforce needed for aircraft maintenance operations.”
“I understand we had a facility that wanted to come, but we didn’t have a hangar?” asked Freeholder Frank Formica.
“We have actually had two that wanted to come, but there was no place to locate,” Lamey said.
Lamey said the rent charged to the company will cover the cost of building the hangar and leasing the land from the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which owns the airport.
The 22,500 square foot hangar will be built on land between two existing hangars, Lamey said, and the land will be leased for 30 years, with options to extend to a maximum of 50 years.
Signature Air is in one of the existing hangars, while the other is a private hangar that houses some of Borgata’s planes, he said.
“There is a big demand for hangar space, but SJTA just doesn’t have the (financial) capacity to build hangars,” Lamey said.
Michael Price, of Egg Harbor Township, asked what would happen if the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey buys the airport from SJTA.
“It’s a contractual arrangement, so if someone else were to take over they would have to honor those contracts,” said Freeholder Director Amy Gatto. “We could either sit around and wait or we can take action.”
Economic Alliance Executive Director Lauren Moore has said Elevate is the first maintenance and repair operation to be targeted by a coalition of the county government, the SJTA and the alliance to help diversity the economy.
“It will bring in 125 jobs in 3½ years, and pushing-200 jobs in over five years,” Moore has said.
He called the company a high-level charter company that serves artists, musicians and professional sports teams.
“They would do maintenance here, and as the project matures for them, they may want to start commercial flights as well out of ACY,” Moore has said.