by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer
A $27 million Cecil Airport hangar project that could create up to 400 jobs was approved Monday by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority board of directors.
Flightstar Aircraft Services Inc. plans to expand its aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Cecil Airport with the construction of a 150,000-square-foot hangar. It will be the largest building project in the airport's history.
The company currently leases two hangars and one large warehouse/storage building at the airport and has the capacity to service up to 10 airplanes at a time. It employs about 850 people at the facility.
"When you service the FedEx, Southwest and Deltas of the world, they don't come to you with one airplane, they come to you with several airplanes. Any one of those customers could take up our entire capacity at any given time," said Jerry Hernandez, president and CEO of Flightstar.
That demand can reduce the number of customers Flightstar is able to service, he said.
"So those that we have serviced over the years that I affectionately call the 'onesie, twosies,' that are the asset-based aircraft owners that don't have this continuous schedule, they are the ones being displaced. We need this capacity because they are all customers and all good customers," said Hernandez.
The new hangar will allow Flightstar to service four to six more planes and hire about 400 new employees, Flightstar said.
Hernandez estimated that mechanics working for Flightstar annually earned $60,000-$70,000.
Flightstar already is the largest employer at Cecil Airport before expansion, according to authority CEO and Executive Director Steve Grossman.
"This project represents what we are all about, which is to maintain and enhance the Jacksonville Aviation Authority as an economic engine for this community," said Grossman.
He said Cecil and the area will be "significant growth magnets" for the city and will pull development from the Westside.
In addition, he said the companies had been shipping their maintenance, repair and overhaul needs overseas until recently.
"We are seeing a lot of this MRO work coming back to the United States," said Grossman.
The authority will partner with the Florida Department of Transportation to construct the new facility, with the authority matching $13.5 million from the department. The authority will lease the building to Flightstar for 30 years.
Richard Rossi, authority chief financial officer, estimated Monday that $1.8 million in Flightstar's annual rent for the hangar will produce an 8 percent return on investment for the $13.5 million the authority invests in the project.
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