Plans to bring a high-paying aircraft design company to the Lawrence Municipal Airport remained alive Tuesday after city commissioners learned more about the company.
Commissioners at their weekly meeting unanimously agreed to study the feasibility of extending water and sewer service to the airport so that Lawrence-based DAR Corp. could build a new facility there.
“The Lawrence airport is our first choice,” said Willem Anemaat, president of DAR Corp. “But what we want to do today is impossible because of the lack of sewer service.”
Commissioners were told that previous estimates indicated it would cost about $1.9 million to extend sewer service to the airport, which is about one mile north of North Lawrence. Staff members are estimating it will cost about $600,000 to boost water service to the airport.
But Anemaat, who confirmed his plans to the Journal-World last week, gave commissioners new details about the size of his project. He said his company, which employs 12 people currently, would grow to 25 employees next year, if the deal were approved. He is estimating that the company would grow to 65 employees after five years. Almost all the new employees would be engineers, with average salaries of about $80,000 per year.
Anemaat said the company is in the final stages of securing a contract to design several general aviation aircraft. He said that deal should be finalized by June.
The new facility would design and build prototype, or “proof of concept,” aircraft for companies that are interested in mass-producing the aircraft.
DAR, which has offices on Wakarusa Drive, has been in Lawrence since 1991, but currently doesn’t have enough space to build full-size aircraft.
Aviation and economic development leaders urged commissioners to study ways to extend water and sewer service to the airport.
“This has the potential to have the single greatest impact on the airport since its founding in 1929,” said Bob Newton, a member of the city’s Aviation Advisory Board. “We have lost out on business development opportunities in the past because of this lack of utility service.”
Commissioners did not discuss how they would potentially pay for any extension of service to the airport. The future feasibility study is expected to come up with firm cost estimates for commissioners to consider.
The city gave staff members approval to advertise for the study. Commissioners should be in a position to pick an engineering firm to conduct the feasibility study in early April.
Commissioners are focusing the study on ways to provide water and sewer service to the airport property itself, and not to land that surrounds 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.