Airports along the Front Range are eagerly awaiting Frontier Airlines' decision on the location of its new hangar, which they say will be a catalyst for jobs, prestige and future business.
Seven airports stretching from Fort Collins to Pueblo have lobbied Frontier for the $30 million to $40 million project. Many have offered tax breaks, airport improvements and other incentives.
The hangar will handle heavy maintenance for an estimated 40 to 50 Airbus airplanes annually, work that involves comprehensive checks, major repairs and a complete strip-down of the planes' interiors. The project will total 101,000 square feet of space, which includes related shops and storage.
The hangar could galvanize growth at the smaller airports in contention for the facility.
Front Range Airport in Watkins, for instance, says the hangar could help it land government money to extent its runways to accommodate the Airbus planes and other large aircraft.
"It's very important to the airport because it would be a driver for federal funds," said Dennis Heap, manager of Front Range Airport. "We need demand first to get those funds. It's a big, big deal."
Heap said the hangar could help it land similar operations from other companies, particularly those involved in private and business flying, also called general aviation.
The hangar would significantly boost employment at most of the airports. Frontier's hangar initially will employ up to 200 workers, a number that could hit 350 in a decade, according to information the company sent to airports in May.
"Frontier would become our largest employer," said Kenneth Maenpa, manager of Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, which offered a package of incentives valued at $1.4 million. "It would be huge for the airport to bring in that kind of activity. It's tremendous not only in the type of work that will occur but in the impact on our image."
Frontier currently performs its heavy maintenance at Denver International Airport in a hangar it leases from Continental Airlines. Its long-term lease with Continental expired in February, and the carrier now essentially operates there on a month-to-month basis.
Denver-based Frontier at one point contemplated taking over the Continental hangar but recently decided to construct its own. Ideally, it would build the hangar at DIA, which is in the running for the facility. But Frontier also wanted to see what other airports could offer.
The carrier said it is nearing a decision and could select a location within the next month.
"We're down to the last part of the decision-making process," said Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas. "We have certainly eliminated some sites, but we are still kind of choosing between a couple."