Airport may develop acreage: Board looking for consultant to assist with 'road map' for unused farmland

Oct. 7--Warehouses and distribution centers could rise someday on 400 to 500 acres of farmland at Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport.

"We're looking at our surplus land to determine what is the best and highest use of it," Airport Manager Tim Bradshaw said last week. "Right now, we just farm most of it. But we're trying to put together a land plan that could include warehouses and distribution centers."

Last month, the airport board began advertising for a consultant to "assist with future development opportunities."

The ad says the consultant should have expertise in both "aeronautical and nonaeronautical" land.

Bradshaw said the board hopes to hire a consultant in November and have a development plan by March.

"We're looking for a road map for the next five years," he said. "We list 126 acres of developable land now, but we have between 400 and 500 acres that aren't being used."

The 126 acres currently listed as industrial sites include 89 acres along Kentucky 81 on the airport's west side and 37 acres on the east side between the runways and MidAmerica Airpark.

The airport has roughly 880 acres, including runways, hangars, the main terminal and parking areas.

"I'm excited about it," said Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. "We're a strategic partner with the airport on this. The transition within the airline industry is creating a lot of opportunities."

The airport already leases space away from the terminal to other companies.

L & D Transportation Services, a trucking company, has been leasing five acres at 2615 Kentucky 81 South for its operations for the past five years.

Most people don't think of the area on Kentucky 81 across from the Daviess County Operations Center as being part of the airport.

But Bradshaw said the airport bought the property in the mid-1990s, when it was getting ready to lengthen the east-west runway.

The idea was to control what went on the property.

"We're not interested in selling any of our land," Bradshaw said. "Just renting it. We want to buffer ourselves from residential development. But we're trying to find a steady source of income."

The city has been talking with the state about building a new Kentucky National Guard Armory at the airport behind Kentucky BioProcessing.

Early estimates said construction could start in 2011 and cost approximately $10 million.

"When the armory is built, that will increase activity out here," Bradshaw said.

The airport is nearing the end of an expansion that will lengthen the main runway from 6,500 feet to 8,000.

That's a two-decade project that the community began lobbying for in 1988-89, when Owensboro made the short list for a $75 million Federal Express maintenance operations facility that would have employed 800 people.

The airport's goal is to become a cargo hub, which could lead to more distribution and warehousing jobs in the community, board members have said in the past.

"We hope to take a good look at the strategic plan," Brake said. "This is a great opportunity."

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