Archive for Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lawrence Municipal Airport could become home to aircraft design and manufacturing company

Willem Anemaat is president of Lawrence-based DAR Corp. He wants to build a new hangar at the Lawrence Municipal Airport so his company can start building prototype aircraft.

Willem Anemaat is president of Lawrence-based DAR Corp. He wants to build a new hangar at the Lawrence Municipal Airport so his company can start building prototype aircraft.

March 5, 2009, 11:35 a.m. Updated March 5, 2009, 6:04 p.m.


Company wants to build aircraft at Lawrence airport

The Lawrence Municipal Airport could become home to a high-paying aircraft design and manufacturing company. Enlarge video

Plans are in the works to bring a high-paying aircraft design and manufacturing company to the Lawrence Municipal Airport, if city commissioners are willing to spend the money to provide water and sewer service to the facility.

Lawrence-based DAR Corp. confirmed Thursday that it wants to create an operation at the airport that would allow the company to start designing and building prototype aircraft.

The company’s president estimates the facility within the next five years would employ 65 people with an average annual salary of $80,000.

“Improvements at the airport, I think, would be very positive for the community,” said Willem Anemaat, president of DAR Corp. “Just in my company alone, our revenue would be about $10 million per year after four to five years, and hopefully even more beyond that.”

The airport in North Lawrence doesn’t have standard city water and sewer service. Anemaat said his plans for a 25,000-square-foot hangar and a 12,000-square-foot office building wouldn’t be possible without the city services.

City leaders don’t have a firm estimate for how much it would cost to get water and sewer service to the site, although past estimates have been near the $2 million range.

City Manager David Corliss said he plans to ask city commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting to consider hiring an engineer to study the best ways to extend services to the airport.

Corliss said he thinks it is worth the several thousand dollars it will cost for an engineering study because the community could have much to gain by making the airport more development friendly.

“We’re pleased with the level of interest that we’ve been receiving at the airport,” Corliss said. “I agree with a number of people that our airport is an underutilized economic development tool.”

Corliss said he’s recommending, for the moment, that the city focus on providing sewer service just to the airport property, and not get involved in a larger discussion of providing sewer service to the area surrounding the airport.

A Lawrence-development group has proposed building a business park on the property surrounding the airport, but those plans have been met with stiff opposition by neighbors.

“I think we see that as an independent land use decision,” Corliss said of proposals by Lawrence businessman Jes Santaularia to develop 100 acres of property adjacent to the airport.

China connection

The DAR project had members of the local aviation community buzzing, in particular because it has the potential to tie Lawrence into the growing Chinese aviation market.

Anemaat confirmed that he has accelerated plans for his project after negotiations with a group of Chinese investors have intensified.

Anemaat said the market for aircraft in China is expected to increase as the Chinese government eases restrictions on public pilots to use Chinese airspace.

“There are over a billion people living there, they are starting to open up the airspace to the public, and there a quite a few millionaires over there who can afford to buy aircraft,” Anemaat said.

Ron Renz, president of Lawrence-based Alligator Inc., said the Chinese delegation toured his facilities within the last month. His company could ultimately provide flight testing services for the prototype aircraft that would be designed in Lawrence.

“This particular opportunity looks very promising,” Renz said. “All of the due diligence hasn’t been completed yet, but it looks like it can be the real deal.”

Anemaat said he believes his company will need a significant presence at the Lawrence airport regardless of whether the Chinese deal is completed.

“I believe we’ll be out there one way or another,” Anemaat said. “This is the area of our business that we really want to expand.”

The company has been in Lawrence since 1991, and has 12 employees in an office on Wakarusa Drive. It has done a variety of design work for aircraft, but the company has not been involved in manufacturing the actual prototypes that must be built before the aircraft can be certified for use.

The company also has a division that does design work for wind energy industry. Anemaat said that work also would take place at the airport facility.

Other projects

Rick Bryant, chair of the city’s Aviation Advisory Board, said the city also has been approached by a company that wants to build a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot hangar to house three helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft that are part of its business. The company, which Bryant declined to name, would bring about five jobs to the airport.

Kansas University also is interested in expanding its presence at the airport, said Mark Ewing, chair of the engineering school’s department of aerospace engineering. Ewing said the school would like additional hangar space that would allow it to expand the amount of prototype work it conducts.

Local aviation leaders said the KU presence gives the city a major opportunity to make Lawrence a significant player in the aviation design business. DAR was founded by former KU professor Jan Roskam, who has served as a consultant and designer for most of the world’s major aircraft manufacturers.

“He’s really beyond world renown in the aeronautical industry,” said Lawrence resident and longtime commercial pilot Nelson Krueger.


cthulhu_4_president 9 years, 1 month ago

Expanding local businesses, innovation, job creation=3 things that Lawrence, and the economy in general, needs. Hope this goes through.

John Hamm 9 years, 1 month ago

Could, would, might, hopefully, maybe, possibly....... And then I see the real deal - "whether to hire an engineering firm to study the best ways to provide utility service..." Nuff said.

kusp8 9 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like a steal for Lawrence when this company could easily go to Topeka, KC, or Wichita.

Alexander Neighbors 9 years, 1 month ago

Its a great opportunity for lawrence yea watch out though I bet city commissioners will be getting stock options in these companies.......don't let history repeat its self

Bud Stagg 9 years, 1 month ago

Open your eyes. How do you think you attract businesses? Yes you will have to provide sewer and water to them, BUT THEY WILL PAY TAXES to pay it back!

In the meantime, their employees will buy stuff here, They will shop downtown, they will buy gas, eat at resturaunts. They will generate sales taxes. They will buy homes, pay property taxes, etc. My god so many people in Lawrence are so short sighted.

gccs14r 9 years, 1 month ago

This sounds like a back-door way to get us to pay to run utilities out to an industrial park we can't afford and can't fill. One more extended runup in fuel prices will shatter aviation as an industry, so putting ourselves on the hook for several million in capital spending to support aviation sounds like a poor investment.

somebodynew 9 years, 1 month ago

OK, when I first heard about this I thought it was a great idea. Might still be- good paying jobs, money for the economy and such.

Now, my conspiracy theory side kicks in. Wasn't one of the things Santalaria (??) wanted the City to pay for was the water and sewer upgrades so he could get the rezoning of that land for his "industrial park"?? Now, I am not automatically saying that rezoning is a bad idea (haven't studied it enough), but this sure sounds like a slick way to get what he wanted paid for without a whole lot of trouble.

I am thinking someone needs to check to see if the two are connected somehow and the developer (and city) have found a way that sounds good to the public without close scrutiny.

The other way to do this would be to put the company that is proposing this on notice or agreement that they will actually move there and hire those people - OR they are on the hook for the cost. I don't mind paying for this if it actually produces jobs and benefits to the economy, but if it is just a scam- forget it.

gl0ck0wn3r 9 years, 1 month ago

Quick, someone call Lil' Dickie Heckler so he can start complaining about improving areas north of the river. No doubt Lawrence will kill this project through endless studies.

Danimal 9 years, 1 month ago

Why would an experimental aircraft firm locate in Lawrence where all we can tout are our fine selection of restaurants and live music when they could locate a couple hundred miles away in Wichita where there is an inexhaustible supply of aviation laborers, parts suppliers and manufacturers and engineers? Something seems a little fishy here. We don't even have fiber optic connectivity here, this just doesn't add up.

compmd 9 years, 1 month ago


Do your research. They've been here in Lawrence for more than 15 years. Also, RTFA: "DAR was founded by former KU professor Jan Roskam, who has served as a consultant and designer for most of the world’s major aircraft manufacturers."

kufan67 9 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence is home to everyone at DAR Corp. They also have a close personal relationship with the University of Kansas. They want to stay if the city cooperates. If not, rumor has it that there is a city in Colorado waiting to welcome them with open arms. They want to stay but will move if they have to.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 1 month ago

I hope Lawrence doesn't dilly-dally around and lose it. I am with chuck on this one

chuckabee24 (Anonymous) says… Sounds like a steal for Lawrence when this company could easily go to Topeka, KC, or Wichita.

horseshoe 9 years, 1 month ago

I get from this article where Ron Renz has much to say, there may be a sweetheard deal Ron Renz Alligator Inc. has with Corless renting the City Hangar for less that $1,300 per month and re renting 20 percent of it to Life Star for triple the amount. Hawkeye Helicopter has attempted to bring an operation from Osage City and Ottawa to Lawrence but has had no luck. Does an airport advisory board member really get a paycheck from the planning firm Corless and the City of Lawrence have hired to prepare airport grant applications? Could Renz be trying to get the City of Lawrence to extend his Alligator low rent agreement by enticing DAR into the City Owned Hangar which Renz refers to as his Alligator, Inc., facility looked at by the Chinese. Why can't Corless and the City of Lawrence get their hangar back and rent it to Life Star, Hawkeye Helicopter and DAR - or was that the scheme all along - advance a Dream Scheme so the City owned hangar continues to be rented to Renz at extremely low rent of less than $1,300 per month and with the addition of water and sewer, Renz low rent will be an even better deal. When can the city get the Mr. Hunter's Dream Wings facility back and into a "real deal" aviation endeavor - or will they simply continue to lock out Hawkeye Helicopter, and other aviation companies who want to locate aviation businesses at the Lawrence airport while the insiders on the Lawrence Aviation Advisory Board remain on the payroll of the consulting company who prepares grant applications for the Lawrence Airport. Would sewer and water extension planning generate work for the company who prepares the Lawrence Airport Master Plan? Is the former State of Kansas Director of Aviation also on the payroll of the grant preparation company. May need some armour. Mike

anonymouse 9 years, 1 month ago

Hmmmm, kinda reminds me of DreamWings, the business headed by John Hunter that cost KU and the city lots of money...

the last link may be of interest... DAR corp did the designing for DreamWings. An interesting connection. I hope the city is not so short sighted as to forget the pie in the sky fiasco from 2001.

beawolf 9 years, 1 month ago


Again (and again, and again), you state things without checking! "We don't even have fiber optic connectivity here, this just doesn't add up."

There's underutilized fiber running from KC to Manhattan right off I-70.

You also stated: "Why would an experimental aircraft firm locate in Lawrence ". Please read the article. It's obvious.

gontek 9 years, 1 month ago

DARCorp has no comparison with Dreamwings. There have been hundreds of Small aircraft manufacturers that have gone broke over the years. DARcorp is not one of these companies.

DARCorp has established a great reputation and will hopefully continue to do business in Lawrence, as mentioned look at the founder of this company. If not in Lawrence, they would be welcome in any other intelligent city with an airport. This would be a good deal for Lawrence

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 1 month ago

Looks to me that if all of the expansion at the airport mentioned in this article happens, there's only a need for water and sewer for about 80 additional people. As long as the project accommodates that many folk, and not the several hundred required for the Santularia project, then I think we can be assured that it's not a trojan horse.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 1 month ago

How much is the company willing to contribute to the cause?

75% would be fair. After all if the business fails what then? Bring on the private investors to cover the cost of infrastructure aka impact fee or put the matter before the voters.

Where is the $2million coming from?

One day the city commission has no money...the next day millions are everywhere.

Has the land been purchased? Site plan? Is this speculation?

No go until land is purchased and site plans approved.

How many employees will start? 3-5 How will that pay back?

Voice of caution: "This sounds like a back-door way to get us to pay to run utilities out to an industrial park we can't afford and can't fill. One more extended runup in fuel prices will shatter aviation as an industry, so putting ourselves on the hook for several million in capital spending to support aviation sounds like a poor investment."

Back door deals are not uncommon in Lawrence we all know that. Lawrence cannot afford more empty buildings.

Maybe this operation cannot set up in Topeka or Kansas City?

gontek 9 years, 1 month ago

I bet they would be welcomed with open arms at IXD, LXT, and/or OJC.

gontek 9 years, 1 month ago

Actually, you are all right. This would be a bad deal for Lawrence. No way this would work.

full dicslosure: I live in Johnson County.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 1 month ago

I do not feel taxpayers should be forced to spend tax dollars towards this project. The company should provide all of the financing for everything...this is what banks are for.

Lawrence cannot afford tax abatements which is what the new sales tax screamed out.

The speculation is they might have 65 employees who might make 85,000 annually maybe in five years. Once this goal is reached come back and talk. Let this or any company prove themselves to the community first.

All of the new infrastructure will be on the backs of the taxpayers.

Sales of private aircraft is in the tank and no one knows if sales will ever bounce back to the levels that the boom town economics was producing.

Guess the repub BUSHO group were not the economic giants of our time. They were more like steam shovels digging money holes. AND creating financial failures = voodoo economics.

"Every sale of stock on the stock market includes the disclaimer: "the return on this investment is not guaranteed and may be negative"--for good reason.

During the 20th century, there were several periods lasting more than 10 years where the return on stocks was negative. After the Dow Jones stock index went down by over 75% between 1929 and 1933, the Dow did not return to its 1929 level until 1953. 25 years to bounce back is quite a while.

There have been several decade long periods whereby the market was a loser.

In claiming that the rate of return on a stock investment is guaranteed to be greater than the return on any other asset would a lie. If an investment-firm broker made this claim to his clients, he would be arrested and charged with stock fraud. Michael Milken went to jail for several years for making just this type of promise about financial investments."

Dollars and Sense

concernedone 9 years, 1 month ago

No business venture or expansion is 100% guranteed to succeed, but that doesn't mean we should not encourage them.

Having in-door plumbing and running water at our airport seems like at 2009 kind of thing to do even if there wasn't a company wanting to expand there.

The economy may be bad now, but does everyone really believe that things won't get back to normal again, ever?

concernedone 9 years, 1 month ago

It doesn't sound like tax payers are being asked to build a building, or buy stock or something? I don't even see mention of tax abatement being requested, although that is quite reasonable.

They just want the city to bring water/sewer to the airport, which sounds like a good thing to do and is in no way considered investing in that business.

I'm pretty sure most of you living in Lawrence didn't write the check for the water/sewer to your house. It's covered in the property tax you or your land lord pays over a period of time. And I can tell you this that commercial property pays a much higher rate.

This should have been done a long time ago. Who knows how many companies we could have had if our facilities were competitve with others.

Or we can stay a bedroom community with limited high paying jobs and plenty of high taxes. Which do you prefer?

gccs14r 9 years, 1 month ago

We should not be encouraging any kind of development in the middle of the Kaw valley. The river will overrun anything built out there. It's just a matter of when.

SkydiveKU 9 years, 1 month ago

So many of you are short sighted! Your all right..... it's all a scam....

Funny how more then one person has a dream to build their own building (hanger) with their own funds and build a aviation business at LWC. Yet the lack of available acres to comply with the county codes for septic systems on the remaining airport grounds is keeping these businesses from building here.

( What JOEHAWK said!) Tax payers or the city as a whole would gain from the taxes, sales tax on goods & services some businesses would generate on airport property. The business I would like build would bring in people from all over Kansas as well as across the state lines, yet the lack of sewer & water is a major hold up not only for DAR, Hawkeye Heli, myself or any other person or company wanting to locate a business big or small @ LWC.

"horseshoe" is the only poster here who really seem to have a complete understanding of one of the problems with the "good ol boy" system some locals are milking for their own personal gain. What conflict of interest would be if a AAD board member was getting paid to work for the grant writing consultants as an employee and also having a vote on how and what happens on the airport.

It's not like there used to be term limits the same AAD board members had overturned so they now can serve however long they would like or the mayor would like. Hey it's not like the AAD board are paid to serve on it.

Until the sewer system is updated from septic to city no one can really do anything under the current county code for septic, no new business can build, KU research can't expand, the terminal can't expand, the FBO/repair shop operator can't expand his business...

All you people bitching about your tax money used to pay for a sewer, get a clue your tax money is what built that airport and the city is working on getting another 850,000 for making the runway 15/33 600 feet longer, that is all of our tax money folks, but lets shoot our tax paying self in the foot and have our longer runway with no new companies building here, paying taxes, bringing in jobs. Maybe we can get those cool extra large handicap johnny on the spots for the terminal over flow and the new businesses to solve the problem and to welcome those who fly in for KU games & for the race track with some real class.

newshound25 9 years, 1 month ago

Good for Lawrence. The city needs to look for these kinds of businesses so it can grow revenue. I hope the new city commissioners continue to look for other companies with good paying jobs. Lance Johnson seems to get it when it comes to jobs and infrastructure. You can't have one without the other.

Bruce Liddel 8 years, 11 months ago

Let's look at this from a historical perspective. There have been a parade of companies wanting to locate at the Lawrence airport, but none of them ever could, because there was no sewer at the airport. Recall that about 12 years ago, Cessna had put Lawrence on the short list for its brand new piston aircraft factory. Cessna picked Independence, KS. Why? Because Independence KS had the courage to pass a bond issue and build sewer out to the airport. Both Cessna and Independence KS are far better off because of this foresight. We lost.

Other things going on in our community, plus the interest from DAR Corp., make now the last best chance for real economic development in Lawrence. DAR is a stable successful company poised for real growth. Even if DAR didn't stay forever, there's no reason to suspect that companies would stop expressing an interest in Lawrence, especially if we then had sewer at the airport.

Suppose you had a business and wanted to locate on an airport in Kansas. Salina KS already has sewer, but shortsighted taxpayers in Lawrence want you to pay $millions for a new sewer. Where will you locate your business?

You want a job in Lawrence? Then lobby for infrastructure at the Lawrence Municipal Airport - perhaps the single largest potential driver of our local economic growth for years to come.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.