Salina Airport center vying for new large employers

Jan. 28, 2010


Jan. 26--Saline County government and civic leaders are working to bring to Salina's airport industrial area two potential employers that, between them, could create 335 jobs with annual payrolls of $5.12 million and $9.5 million, respectively.

"These are examples of two projects featuring employers who would benefit from improved utilities -- water, sewer and fire protection," said Tim Rogers, Salina Airport Authority executive director, after meeting with city commissioners during a study session Monday at which he outlined a proposal for a nearly $5.3 million utility upgrade.

The upgrade is slated to be included in the city's five-year capital improvement plan that commissioners will consider later this year, with the 2011 budget.

Rogers cautioned that it's early in the negotiating process with both employers, and Salina is competing with cities in other states, in other regions of the country.

He would not name the employers or the types of businesses they are. The information about each was listed under a code name in the commission's presentation -- Project Spyglass and Project Sky.

Rogers said Project Spyglass would create 65 jobs, have a payroll of $5.12 million and pay workers an average of $37.50 an hour, or $78,000 annually.

Project Sky would employ 270 workers, have an annual payroll of $9.5 million, and pay workers an average of $17 an hour, or $35,360 annually.

Data from the U.S. Census show the average wage for all Saline County workers is $14.56 an hour, or about $30,300 annually. Rogers said the average income for airport industrial center workers is $17.08 an hour, or about $35,530 annually.

"The city commission had asked previously, is there a way to measure the results of what would occur if the investment is made," Rogers said. "These are examples of the type of economic growth that show how the city, chamber, county and airport authority are working together to secure new jobs."

The utility improvements sought would create a 550,000-gallon water storage tank facility west of the Big Bertha hangar.

The storage facility would supply a standalone fire line, while a new domestic water line would run parallel with the fire line for about a mile, to a point just south of Salina Area Technical College, said Martha Tasker, director of utilities for the city. The domestic and fire line backbones will help serve new buildings and remodeling as it progresses.

"There were two issues," City Manager Jason Gage said.

One was the airport service center project for adding buildings to create a center for aviation business.

The other is the opportunity to upgrade the structures being vacated by Hawker Beechcraft as it leaves its rented buildings, Gage said.

The new fire line would be capable of supplying 8,000 gallons of water a minute in a fire emergency.

"New businesses coming in will need enhanced fire protection," Gage said.

The city began working to identify utility deficiencies at the airport center about 1 1/2 years ago.

"And the greater the fire protection, the better the insurance rates," Tasker said.

The project also includes installing complementary sewer lines to pick up future building construction at the airport center.

Tasker said city water and sewer rates could be increased as much as 3 percent to finance the project, if the proposal is approved by commissioners.

Rogers said a commitment to build the utility upgrade could give Salina a leg up on its competition to land the new employers.

"It clearly shows a commitment by the community to build and maintain infrastructure that supports significant job retention and job growth," he said.

-- Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 822-1403 or by e-mail at [email protected].