WAYNESBURG — A groundbreaking ceremony for the $1.6 million T-Hangar project at Greene County Airport took place Friday morning before an audience of pilots, media and industry representatives, along with local and state government representation.
The project is just one step in the proposed plan for the airport that is designed to attract retail development to the west of the administration building. Four old hangars in that location will be demolished to make way for the six parcels of land that will be available for new business.
“It’s taken us five years to get here,” said Greene County Commissioner Archie Trader, who hosted the groundbreaking ceremony with Commissioners Chuck Morris and Blair Zimmerman. “I feel almost 10 feet tall that we can be here today to start this project.”
Trader commended the work of State Representative Pam Snyder and former commissioner Dave Coder, who started work on the project while both were still Greene County Commissioners.
Calling the project a “win-win for the people of Greene County,” Snyder said it is the current board of commissioners that carrying the ball “over the finish line that matters.”
The new 20,449-square-foot pre-engineered T-hangar will be built in the location of the windsock on the eastern side of the airport property. It will house ten leasable airplane hangars, storage and maintenance space and a pilots’ community room. Construction on the T-hangar is expected to be completed by May.
Other components of the project include; the installation of new utility and storm water management facilities with a small bioretention system.
Senator Tim Solobay said he views this project as just the beginning of many things to come and urged county commissioners to not hesitate to call on his office for assistance in the future.
“It is all about making this corner of the world a better place,” Solobay concluded.
Lou Lazzaro, deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy and Rebekah Sungala, in constituent services for U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, spoke on behalf of the representatives.
Shuster is the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Sungala said Shuster sees this project beneficial in making Greene County more attractive to businesses that may want to locate here.
“The representative sees infrastructure as the backbone of our economy. This is a way of strengthening our transportation network and will open Greene County and position it for greater economic opportunities,” Sungala said.
Lazzaro shared similar remarks from Murphy.
“This is just the first phase of development for the airport. If you build it they are going to come if you make it attractive enough. People are going to use it,” Lazzaro said. “A lot of these private planes will fly in just to have dinner at these airports. We look forward to working with the officials involved in this project in the county.”
Lazzaro said a project such as this takes a team effort and expressed gratitude on Murphy’s behalf to former state representative Mark Critz. In 2011, Critz helped to secure a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission, an agency that tries to spur economic development in Appalachian communities. This money was earmarked for a new entrance to the airport that is the next move in preparing the six-acre parcel being developed as part of the master development agreement with Scalo-Summa.
Robbie Matesic, executive director of the Greene County Department of Economic Development said Scalo-Summa has had serious discussions with multiple businesses regarding the estimated completion schedule for this infrastructure. The county has requested that these parcels of land be used for family-style sit-down restaurants. Matesic said she is confident that once the new entrance is in place there are businesses that will come to the site. A specific goal is for one of these restaurants to be a destination type business that people will travel a distance to patronize.
Previously, Matesic has said that the county is not driving this level of investment in the airport to drive the aviation side of it, although she said she believes that will pick up with the things that are being done to improve it.
In the past the airport has been a drain on the general fund. According to Trader, bringing in the drag racing events helped with that issue. An overall goal for the airport from the perspective of the county commissioners is to make it self-sustainable, Trader said.
The addition of a credit card reader for fuel is one way the county has been keeping planes flying into the facility after hours. Before this was an option, pilots could not refuel at the airport 4:30 p.m. because it was not staffed to do so. Now, pilots can stop there anytime to refuel. When options for afterhours dining become available at the airport it is expected to drive even more air traffic to the site.
After several years in the making, Matesic said, “We’re just all so glad we’re here atthis moment.”