It’s official: LSA coming to airport
• Minor snag doesn’t prevent new business at airport, Page 6
After a period of decline in rentals the past year to year-and-a-half, news coming out of the Bartow Municipal Airport and industrial park has taken a turn for the better.
In a news release issued late Thursday, Jan. 17, J. Phil McCoy, president and CEO of Light Sport America, announced his firm had purchased the assets of Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR StormAircraft. In addition, he expected the relocation of the factory to the Bartow Municipal Airport industrial park would be completed by March.
“The acquisition of StormAircraft will enable LSA to offer America’s only full line of U.S. built sport aircraft,” McCoy said. “Storm has been in business nearly 30 years and has sold over 3,000 aircraft.”
Also included in the press release was mention that LSA had also purchased the assets of Florida Aircraft Painting Inc. and Florida Aircraft Supply. The purchases include a 36,000-square-foot Aviation Complex on six acres at the Bartow Municipal Airport. McCoy said LSA will continue to operate the painting business in a 60 by 60 building and use the 150 by 151 hanger and offices to build aircraft.
McCoy said he expects his company to hire up to 70 employees during its first year of operation and over the next three years to increase the workforce to up to 125 persons.
News of the purchase and the intent to bring manufacturing to the Bartow Municipal Airport Authority’s industrial park caught both Airport Authority Executive Director Cynthia Barrow, as well as members of the Airport Authority Commission off-guard, pleasantly so. Both Barrow and Commissioner A.J. Jackson said they first learned about McCoy’s news release from a news blast on the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce website.
“It’s absolutely exciting news,” said Barrow, who added she and the Airport Authority had been approached by McCoy several years earlier, but at the time nothing had transpired. Barrow speculated that may possibly have been as a result of unfinished business with banking institutions securing financing.
Regardless, the news was well received by Jackson.
“It’s the kind of project we’ve been hoping to see for some time,” Jackson said. He was also pleased that the new business is avionic-related. “As a pilot, I’m glad to see it.” Jackson added he hoped this was an encouraging sign of greater things to come in the economy.
McCoy’s announcement also came as a surprise because of what had been discussed at the Airport Authority Commission meeting held Monday, Jan. 14. In his report to the commissioners, Airport Authority Attorney Sean Parker mentioned he had received a communication from McCoy the week before Christmas.
In that communication, McCoy expressed concern about the restaurant being closed, as well as the control tower; the latter was of greater concern. In a later interview, Barrow said that the control tower is currently unmanned because the operator is currently recuperating from surgery, but that he expected to return to work very soon. Barrow added that neither the restaurant nor the control tower were ever part of any initial negotiations.
Parker said that McCoy wrote about reconsidering leasing space at the industrial park. Parker’s response to McCoy sought to assuage McCoy.
“The things he’s concerned about are things we’re concerned about too,” said Parker.
Although no lease agreements have yet to be signed, Barrow and Jackson expressed all confidence everything will be in place by the projected March date McCoy cited in his news release. McCoy would like to get the business started by March, but it is premature to say anything for sure without a lease and a current impediment with the previous business there.
That impediment is resolving an issue with the previous tenant of the site where McCoy plans to set up operations.
After Jerry Butterworth, who had owned and operated Florida Aircraft Painting Inc. and Florida Aircraft Supply, shut down operations and vacated, a Phase One study was conducted, which the Airport Authority, in negotiations with Butterworth, agreed to cover the cost. However, if a Phase Two study was deemed necessary, Butterworth agreed to pay for that; at the time the estimated cost was calculated to be at least $16,000, but was not to exceed $16,800.
Following the Phase One study, it was deemed a Phase Two study was necessary. The “Phase Two Environmental Assessment of Land Area 502,” conducted by A-C-T, came in at $13,477. However, Butterworth has balked at paying and according to Barrow, had told her he would not and stated he would be hiring an attorney. This matter was first brought up at the Airport Authority Commission’s November 2012 meeting. At that meeting, chairman James F. Clements said he would be glad to call Butterfield to remind him of the agreement he had made “in a room filled with people,” which also had been recorded.