The Middletown Regional Airport could see a sizable investment of tax dollars if lawmakers approve two capital budget projects proposed for a Statehouse bill expected to be introduced by the month’s end.
The city of Middletown, which owns the airport, is requesting $750,000 to invest in developing dozens of acres of prime airport property, according to a budget request from the office of Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown.
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“While we see the development of the 130 acres as a primary support to the programs at the facility, it’s the facility’s essential role in facilitating the development of not only a potential of 130 acres, but also hundreds of thousands of square feet of hanger/airport space and possibly hundreds or even thousands of jobs and careers throughout the region that is most important to understand,” said Matt Eisenbraun, Middletown Economic Development assistant director.
Millions of tax dollars will be invested in Ohio projects, and Butler County local governments and organizations have collectively requested nearly $41.1 million in the state's capital budget, which is projected to be around $2 billion. Two years ago, the budget was $2.6 billion. State officials say the capital budget is to be introduced by the end of February and is expected it to be approved by the Ohio House and Senate and signed by Ohio Gov. Kasich by Easter.
Eisenbraun said in addressing the expansion of any industry park, such as the airport, “a community must be prepared to answer the fundamental workforce question from employers — where are the workers coming from? This is as important as the status of water, sewer, electric and fiber are to a potential project.”
Magellan Aerospace Middletown has announced two expansion projects over the next three years, which will increase its workforce needs by 40-plus positions, according to the budget request. Cincinnati State Middletown is also preparing to offer aviation maintenance programs beginning with avionics and electronic component repair this fall, but the school will be limited in its programs to classes which do not need hanger space at the airport until space can be built to accommodate FAA education program requirements.
Also, Butler Tech has indicated an interest to begin to supplement any Cincinnati State programs with like programs aimed at high school students within the same facility.
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“As we approach the development of the airport into a local, regional and national asset for the aviation industry, there is potential for the airport to draw talented youth into an array of career paths that have vast potential over the next few generations,” Eisenbraun said.
He said by working with Cincinnati State Middletown and Butler Tech, city leaders believe a career pathway of national distinction can be created, which can draw draw students and families to Middletown.
“While the aviation world will see this just as simple hanger, we believe this will be a gateway to the city,” Eisenbraun said. “This has not only the potential to draw people to Middletown from the neighboring counties, but also hundreds of miles away as in the aviation world.”
Another Middletown request: Wind tunnel at Middletown regional
The other project that is seeking funding is for the skydiving company of the Middletown Regional Airport’s fixed based operator.
John Hart, which owns Start Aviation Services, also owns Start Skydiving based out of the airport. His company is seeking $5 million for a $32 million wind tunnel project that will exceed the capabilities of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s wind tunnel.
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The wind tunnel will be used in aerospace research and development and education, according to the budget request from Keller’s office.
“There are many benefits to having a vertical wind tunnel for the use of research and development and it will be available to all universities in the state of Ohio, the Air Force Research Labs located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Department of Defense, and any Aerospace entity in the state of the Ohio,” according the request.
Plans include using $3.3 million of the requested funds for several projects dedicated to research and development, most notably equipping the wind tunnel with the proper sensors and data acquisition instruments required for professional industrial research.
“The company facility will have an education center equipped with an educational horizontal wind tunnel to teach students of all ages about the significance of wind tunnel research and testing,” according to the proposal. “This center will be able to hold large class field trips so that the students and their teachers can learn about how wind tunnels work and then proceed to actually test models and fly in one.
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Construction of the facility would include using $1.5 million of the requested tax money.
The research preparation room will be a multipurpose room used for preparing objects for testing inside the wind tunnel. The current wind tunnel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base reaches a top wind speed of 105 mph. The proposed wind tunnel in Middletown would more than double that speed, according to the proposal.
“Our tunnel’s airspeed will exceed 280 miles per hour, increasing the range of its research capabilities,” according to Start Skydiving’s proposal. “With our tunnel, researchers can build the object outside the tunnel and, when it is ready, lower it into the tunnel for testing, allowing for multiple tests over a short period of time.”
Items for testing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base need to be built inside the tunnel, which, according to the proposal, could take weeks or months.
The final $200,000 will be used for training personnel to use the equipment.