FITCHBURG — Officials are excited about the economic impact of a major project at the municipal airport, they said at the project’s groundbreaking Monday.
At 3 p.m., state and local officials came together to break ground on a new terminal building at Fitchburg Municipal Airport. The $4.6 million building will be larger than the current terminal building, with expanded space for the airport diner and sewer hookups to eliminate the current septic system.
Though the project is expensive, $3.8 million of the cost will be covered by a grant from the state Department of Transportation through the Massachusetts Statewide Airport System Plan, a partnership between the DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration to upgrade airports throughout the state.
The groundbreaking Monday was attended by DOT Aeronautics Division Administrator Jeffrey DeCarlo, as well as Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, State Reps. Stephen DiNatale of Fitchburg and Dennis Rosa of Leominster, airport commissioners, project contractor Steve Stutman, and other local officials.
“This new building is a wonderful addition from an economic-development standpoint,” Wong said.
Rosa, a Leominster Democrat, said the project is not only economically beneficial to Fitchburg and Leominster, but to the entire region.
Scott Ellis, the airport manager, and Roy Nascimento, president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, agreed.
“This is very important for our economy, and it’s great to see these types of investments continue,” Nascimento said.
“Where this airport is located, it doesn’t affect just the city of Fitchburg, but Fitchburg, Leominster, Lunenburg, Shirley,” Ellis said.
The airport is already “an economic engine for the community,” he added.
Ellis said the municipal airport generates $14 million a year for the local economy, and the new terminal building, along with other ongoing and planned projects, will only increase that amount.
Wong praised airport leadership for pushing so many improvement projects recently.
In December 2014, the airport broke ground on a new hangar, funded by the Fitchburg Pilots Association.
The airport also plans to add 500 feet of runway at the airport through this state partnership, said Joe Poznick, chairman of the Airport Commission.
For a number of years, Wong said, there wasn’t much happening as far as improvements to the airport.
Now, she said, “we’ve got this great new crew, popping out one project after another.”
“This isn’t costing the city much,” she added of the new terminal. “We’re getting a real bargain here, thanks to state and federal dollars.”
The new terminal building in Fitchburg is part of the first round of airport upgrades throughout the state.
“This Statewide Airport System project is very unique,” DOT’s DeCarlo said. “We’re the only state doing a project like this, having a standard professional environment for aviators to come fly out of.”
Poznick, of the Airport Commission, said the old terminal building, which will be torn down, has served the region well.
The new building, however, “will get us into the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years of great operation here,” he added.