Enterprise will be getting about 200 helicopter maintenance jobs in the next year-and a-half with a pay scale of about $24 per hour, after the city council passed a resolution Tuesday night allowing the construction of a new facility at the Enterprise Municipal Airport.
Brightwater Aviation Lender, LLC, of Chicago, the parent company of Alabama Aircraft Support, was authorized a loan of $3.5 million from the city council for infrastructure of a $12 million project. The $3.5 million would be paid back to the city in payments with 4 percent interest.
The project would include a 60,000 square foot hangar.
The city passed a bond issue in 2011 for $12 million, $7.5 million of which was allotted for economic development. The $3.5 million loan will come out of those funds.
The facility will be leased for 40 years from the city.
Ailene Thomas of the Jones Walker Law Firm said the project would take 12-18 months to complete.
Mayor Kenneth Boswell, who said the project has been in the works for the last 16 months, said the council’s approving of the resolution all but sealed Alabama Aircraft Support’s move to Enterprise.
“There are a few more negotiating points, but we should have a formal announcement and a groundbreaking soon,” Boswell said.
The company will refurbish helicopters, including those that have been in war action as well as state helicopters.
The economic impact, Boswell said, would be as much as $10 million or above on the community’s overall payroll annually.
Boswell credited the State of Alabama, particularly Governor Robert Bentley, for “stepping up to the plate, big time.”
The sequestration that hit Fort Rucker earlier this year has left some mechanics out of work, a fact that Boswell said played a factor in Alabama Aircraft Support moving to Enterprise.
“Workforce development was certainly a factor,” Boswell said. “We have a healthy reserve here and the Enterprise State Community College Aviation Division. It’s a great place to train people. Fort Rucker not only turns out pilots but mechanics that work on birds of all kinds. And even at $24 per hour, that’s still one of the lowest aviation wage rates in the United States.
“This is a good project for the city. It’s a good project for our citizens, especially with sequestration.”
Boswell said it was nice to know that some area families could remain here with these jobs.
“It makes riding airplanes and all those late nights and listening to attorneys argue almost worth it,” Boswell joked. “Ultimately, being a part of someone’s life and providing a job makes it worthwhile.”
The council also passed a resolution for the funding of airport improvement from the State of Alabama Department of Transportation, $466,000 in total, $23,200 of which would be matched by the city. That project will include the addition of an automotive weather observation station at the airport.
In other business: The council approved a one-time $75 compensation adjustment to all city and water board employees to be paid in December.
Enterprise Rescue has donated three defribulators to the Enterprise Fire Department.
The next meeting of the Enterprise city Council will be on Dec. 3, beginning at 8 a.m. due to the city’s annual Christmas parade being later that day.