"We have not been supported by AIP grant money at any time," explains Jones. "We think we will have some AIP opportunities this year, however." The primary target for that money is the stormwater drainage system, which will cost $1.2 million just to get the project started.
A Regional Study
The storied history of aviation in Lake Charles saw the military play a major role in the 1950s, leading the city to build nearby Regional Airport for commercial service. By 1961, the military had changed its mind and abandoned Chennault. When officials sought to make it a tool for economic development, they first had to recondition the facility. "There was nothing here but forest and an old runway," recalls Harvey. "And we had to dig the forest out to get to the runway."
The reconditioned 10,700x200-ft. runway has proved an attractive lure for government training contracts, and is being marketed along with a 37-acre industrial park the Chennault Authority is developing. In addition, the Port Authority is developing some 300 acres east of the airport, and the entire site is connected to the interstate highway system and major rail lines. There are also a host of economic incentive packages that have been put together, led by the state's classifying it as an economic development district and the FTZ.
A key element in defining the aviation future here may be a study commissioned to analyze all four airports in Calcasieu Parish, which includes two general aviation facilities. It is being paid for by the parish, the chamber, the city, and the authority. The regional airport declined to participate.
Explains Harvey, "If the people in the area want to have an air carrier airport (at Regional), a cargo transport airport here, and two GA airports, so be it, if they want to pay for them. If they don't want that, then we want them to tell us what they do want. We can do anything at Chennault.
"The question is: How do you want us to economic develop? Then, let us all move along together."
Jones sees the finalization of the foreign trade zone as a catalyst, because it will be tied to the Port's FTZ. "Local industry has a need for the zone because they do export/import," he says. "Our zone is projected to be more than petrochemical. Medical and research and development firms have expressed an interest once the zone is complete."
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