A redevelopment project at the Springfield-Branson National Airport aims to make the city more attractive for corporations. The airport's governing board awarded the construction contract to Hartman and Company on Thursday, and work is set to begin soon.
"Whenever you get off an airplane, look at that. It's an old building foundation. This does not represent Springfield very well," said Brian Weiler, the city's aviation director.
That old foundation, vacant buildings, and abandoned parking lots are included in the 10 acres of airport land slated to be cleared on the General Aviation side of the airport at the western end of West Kearney Street.
The General Aviation side is where business executives take off and land. That includes companies already headquartered in Springfield, as well as those exploring Springfield as a possible site.
"Really, this side of the airport is transitioning from the former airline terminal area to, really, a corporate and business development area that it's becoming," Weiler said.
A $5 million Missouri Department of Transportation grant is letting the airport turn the unused area into hangar space for corporate jets.
"We want those spots to be ready, so, when corporations need those, they're able to build and locate those aircraft here as quickly as possible," Weiler said.
The MoDOT grant is part of the State Aviation Trust Fund. The money in the fund comes directly from the sale of jet fuel in Missouri and must be used for airport improvement projects. In 2013, for example, the Springfield airport sold 6 million gallons of fuel.
"General aviation is a very important part of many corporations in this area. They utilize business aircraft as a way to save time and money," Weiler said.
Weiler said there is a waiting list for space, and not having it means turning away people who want to invest and create jobs in the Queen City.
"That's the last thing I want to tell a CEO is, 'I don't have enough room for you to build this hangar,'" Weiler said.
The 10-acre site should be cleared and ready for hangars by October. Up to 14 hangars could be built after that.