BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — A celebration was held Tuesday at the North Central West Virginia Airport for the completion of Phase I excavation work for the Aerotech Business Park.
The $10.5 million project moved a mountain to level land for the business park, new terminal building and additional aprons to include lighting.
Current Harrison County commissioner and airport board member David Hinkle, said a few years ago the West Virginia National Guard began moving the estimated three million cubic yards of dirt, but they were redirected by mission requirements.
A couple years passed, then a team from the airport, including Hinkle, went to Charleston looking for support from the governor.
“I can tell we had been to a lot of places and we weren’t sure if we were ever going to accomplish moving this mountain, but the governor saw the potential,” Hinkle said.
Governor Justice announced in August 2019 an allocation of $10 million to support the project from the West Virginia Infrastructure Jobs Development Council and another $10 million in the form of a loan from West Virginia Economic Development Authority. Also, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries reached a deal to bring a regional jet service hub to the airport and build two new hangars for an estimated $20 million shortly after that announcement.
The airport currently employs about 1,500 people and is the home to aircraft maintenance and pilot schools from Pierpont Community and Technical College and Fairmont State University. It also serves a vacation gateway to Washington D.C., Myrtle Beach, Destin-Fort Walton and Orlando for thousand of residents.
“Thousands of employees, tens of thousands of people coming here and the longest runway in the state,” Justice said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “Now you have all this land for development, a new terminal and all the different things going on in this area- you’re on your way.”
Ron Watson, current airport board member, former airport board president and former Harrison County commissioner said removal of the mountain and addition of flat, developable land is the key to spur more growth. That would be in addition to continued growth for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, he said.
“The aerospace industry is booming and the airport is an economic engine for North Central West Virginia,” Watson said. “It has an economic impact of over $1 billion annually.”
Current airport board president Ernie VanGilder, said there was a large group of people that have worked for years to position themselves to be a major employer in the area.
“This project marks a $70 million investment to the community with Harrison County, Marion County and the city of Bridgeport and North Central West Virginia Airport contributing $6.6 million in matching funds,” VanGilder said.
Design work for the new terminal building and parking area is complete and will be next major project. But, work and development of business continues on I-279 and nearby the airport that is expected to be ongoing.
Bridgeport mayor Andy Lang said the airport will be a driver of good things in the community for the foreseeable future.
“North Central West Virginia is going to benefit from this for many generations,” Lang said. “This will provide transportation needs for our community, this will provide jobs for this community and it will provide them for many years.”