BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — The North Central West Virginia Airport is will receive more than $1.7 million in grant funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support development of an industrial site to further grow the region’s aerospace industry.

The Benedum Airport Authority made the announcement during a formal press conference Friday, with U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and other federal, state and local elected leaders present.

Ron Watson, Harrison County Commission President and Chairman of the Benedum Airport Authority, said the Benedum Logistics Park will be located at the southeast end of the runway and will be accessible from U.S. 50.

Total costs for the project are estimated at $2.13 million.

“It’s expected to create and retain as many as 340 jobs and also to generate another $8 million in private investment, so we’re excited about that,” Capito said during the press conference.

While the airport does face constraints, such as obtaining more flat land for industrial development, Capito said the NCWV Airport has the largest industrial development among any airport in West Virginia.

“What this airport has is incredible industrial development with Bombardiere, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, so we have a great place to grow from,” she told MetroNews following the announcement. “Other airports have more commercial service and other things than this airport does, but this has the industrial base to really sustain it. You see the Fairmont State and Pierpont with their workforce development, and the aerospace industry has really, I think, paid off.”

Current estimates are to build about five buildings on the property, each about 20,000 square feet or less for a total of 100,000 square feet. The first building, funded by the EDA grant, will be 18,000 square feet.

“We knew that the leaseholders on the airports are always looking for space,” said County Commissioner David Hinkle, who sits on the Benedum Airport Authority. “We know that there’s companies looking to expand here at the airport, and we knew we were short on space. So the committee worked, and this was the first project that we thought we could get done easily without having to move a lot of dirt, which seems to be the issue on all the other projects. We put in a lot of effort and our senators and congressman helped us, and we appreciate that.”

Manchin and Rod Rogers, a spokesman for Rep. David McKinley, also spoke at the press conference.

Capito said that shows how bipartisan this effort is for West Virginia.

“There’s no party affiliation with something like this,” she said. “This is all good. It’s job creation. It’s expansion. It’s bringing our young people in. It’s utilizing our workforce, and it’s really jobs of the future too because aerospace, as I said, either space or in commercial or package deliveries or drones and all of the other things that we see coming on really make this industry a very vibrant place for West Virginia.”

With a current economic impact of more than $1 billion annually and approximately 3,500 direct and indirect jobs, NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock is optimistic this addition will help the airport grow not only physically but economically as well.

“I’m excited what the future’s going to bring. I’ve been wanting to get this developed for a long time, and I’m really excited with what we’re doing,” Rock said. “With all your help and with all the success we’ve had, I still think we’re just scratching the potential of this airport. As long as we continue to work together and promote aerospace, the best is yet to come.”

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