Less than a year after ST Engineering opened next to Pensacola International Airport, a major funding boost has been granted for the planned expansion of the aviation repair facility.
In a letter to Mayor Grover Robinson, the Florida Department of Transportation confirmed $20 million going to “Project Titan” for infrastructure. FDOT is now busy removing the funding from several other projects, which is expected to take about eight weeks.
“We have a letter [Wednesday] from the State of Florida DOT that in 20-21 we’re going to receive an additional $20 million in aviation money for the build-out of the hangars,” said Robinson. “I’m going to sign a letter with our corporate partner, indicating we’re ready to move forward. And we are already kicking off Hangar-2 at this particular time.”
The goal was to raise $25 million locally, of the $210 million total price tag. As it worked out, the Mayor says that local funding was fairly balanced among the contributors.
“City-county-corporate partner [ST Aerospace] is about $65 million,” said the Mayor. “Sixty-six million comes from Triumph [Gulf Coast], and about $65 million from the state, between the jobs program and DOT. So that’s going to put it together, a third/a third/a third.”
Calls to the Department of Transportation seeking an interview for this story were not returned. Getting FDOT on board to seal the deal, says the Mayor, was a team approach.
“It really had to start with the City Council, that had the confidence to vote on this because I don’t think if they got the ball rolling, we wouldn’t be here,” Robinson said. “Four votes at the County [Commission] and I appreciate all of those. Having a unanimous decision at Triumph, and getting from the state. As soon as we got all the other votes, they were supportive.”
Hangar-2, says Robinson, is a mirror-image of the existing Hangar-1 and will be adjacent and to the south. ST Engineering has already lined up a client to use the facility.
“Their intent is to have Hangar-2 open, get those people in there as quickly as possible,” said Robinson. “We’re shooting to have that hangar up and ready to go at the end of 2020. Construction will be going during 2020 and hopefully be finished by the end of 2020.”
Work on Hangars Three and Four are scheduled to begin in 2022. When finished, the additional 655,000 sq. ft. will create 1,300 jobs along with office, warehouse and shop space. About $400 million is projected to be pumped into the local economy, and Robinson believes will open the door further to strong job growth in the Panhandle.
“If we have strong employment growth, it should continue to bode well for our economic situation,” says Robinson. “In Pensacola once we feel we’ve got that protected, we’ll continue to try to grow in other areas.”
However, fully funding Project Titan remains out on the horizon. The city of Pensacola needs about another $4.8 million or so, and Robinson is confident it can be raised over the next five years.