BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Aerospace Park site in Blountville is ready for future development. Community leaders gathered at Tri-Cities Airport Thursday morning to celebrate the milestone.
For years, the dream has been to create a home for aviation-related industries situated alongside the airport on the 160-acre development. The previously hilly terrain has now been transformed into flat ground.
“Moving all this dirt, finding sinkholes, filling in the sinkholes. I said this many times, I’ve never been so excited to show people flat land before,” said Gene Cossey, Tri-Cities Airport Executive Director.
The TVA, Tennessee Department of Transportation, and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development have all contributed grant money towards the project.
Additionally, Sullivan and Washington Counties, along with Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, Tennessee all contributed funding totaling $8,500,000. In return, they’re hoping for the creation of 1,500 to 2,000 well-paying jobs.
At Thursday’s event, local mayors spoke on working together to achieve economic goals.
“Let’s look at this as an example, and allow it to launch the next phase of regional cooperation,” said Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy.
“What a special day it is, when nearly a hundred elected officials can come together with unconditional and unqualified support for a project,” Mayor Richard Venable of Sullivan County said.
“Those who follow us years from now, will look back and talk about [how] this was real regionalism,” said Mayor Jenny Brock of Johnson City. “We put our money where our mouth is, we saw into the future, and we saw the dream of somebody, and we helped make it happen.”
US Congressional candidates Blair Walsingham and Diana Harshbarger also came for the launch event, as well as state lawmakers enthusiastic about the project.
“This is the Appalachian Highlands area. And I am so proud of everyone here for coming together,” said Senator Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).
Efforts to recruit the first company to come build on the site continue. The Tri-Cities Airport Authority says target industries for the park include manufacturers and aerospace maintenance, repair, and overhaul operations.
Cossey said the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the aviation industry has slowed recruitment for now. He hopes to see a company “with serious business opportunities” showing interest in the site in 12 to 18 months.
“We’re anticipating that they’re going to come back into their growth stage soon. And we’re making sure that we’re out marketing this Aerospace Park, and the entire region. Because this is a beautiful region, who wouldn’t want to move a company here?” said Cossey.
Finishing grading, final topsoil and seeding and road construction for site access are scheduled to be completed by summer 2021. Aerospace Park officials say most of the site is build-ready and open for business.
Once businesses are present, they are expected to attract graduates of Northeast State’s Aviation Technology program. Northeast State is set to renovate a hangar at the Tri-Cities Airport to be the new location of the program.