An Ottawa aviation company tentatively has agreed to move its corporate headquarters and at least five high-tech jobs with an average salary of $80,000 to the Lawrence Municipal Airport.
A leader with Hawkeye Helicopter confirmed Tuesday that his firm is close to finalizing a deal that would build a new 15,000-square-foot hangar and office at the airport in North Lawrence.
“Things are really starting to fall into place,” said Jarrod Scott, an owner with the company that currently has offices in Ottawa and has its flight operations based in Osage City.
The 14-year old company uses jet helicopters and small aircraft to conduct aerial inspections of rights-of-way for gas, electric and other utility companies.
The new building would house three jet helicopters and up to seven small airplanes that would be used by the company. The project would involve at least five jobs moving to Lawrence initially, but Scott — who runs the company along with his brother and father — said plans are to expand the work force to eight.
The jobs based in Lawrence would include several pilots, a jet mechanic, and several administrative positions, Scott said.
Local economic development officials lauded the project.
“These are very good jobs,” said Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. “These are the type of jobs that would allow you to work in Lawrence and live in Lawrence.”
The project would be built as part of a joint venture with Lawrence businessman Doug Compton’s First Management Inc. A portion of the new hangar would be used to house First Management’s corporate aircraft, Scott said.
Scott said business for Hawkeye was booming as requirements for inspections on electric transmission lines and rights-of-way had increased recently. Hawkeye has contracts to inspect by air about 1.5 million miles of right-of-way. Major clients include Kansas City Power & Light, Westar Energy, Southern Star Central Pipeline, NuStar Energy, Atmos Energy and the Nebraska Public Power District.
Scott said Lawrence rose to the top of the company’s list of new sites because city leaders seemed committed to making new investments at the airport. The city currently is working on a multimillion dollar project to extend water and sewer lines to the airport. That project was started partly in response to interest by Lawrence-based DAR Corp. to build a new aircraft design facility at the airport. Talks with that company continue to progress.
“What has been very important to us is that there has been a lot of forward thinking about the airport from city officials,” Scott said. “It is kind of rare now to find a city that is willing to embrace an aviation business, but everybody has been very receptive.”
The project — which would be built on airport-owned ground just east and south of the terminal building — still needs to win necessary city approvals.
Johnson said the development has not requested a traditional tax abatement, but said details about a lease rate for the ground and perhaps the use of industrial revenue or recovery bonds still had to be determined.
The company hopes to begin construction in the fall, Scott said.