For four years, community leaders and business people gathered for the
Wiregrass Economic Forum to talk about the need for jobs.
Attendees at Thursday's Fifth Annual Wiregrass Economic Forum took the opportunity to celebrate a major success.
While leaders stressed the acquisition of Commercial Jet, Inc., and its promise of 500 jobs, is not the end of a long road but just the beginning, many also indicated it was OK to talk about the big fish the Wiregrass landed instead of the ones that got away.
The expansion of the Miami-based aircraft maintenance and repair company to Dothan was a major part of the forum, held at Wiregrass Church and hosted by CapSouth Partners.
Dothan Regional Airport Director Art Morris participated in a panel discussion with Great Southern Wood Preserving CEO Jimmy Rane and CapSouth Chief Investment Officer Marshall Bolden.
Morris said he believes the location of Commercial Jet in Dothan will help lure additional employers.
"We believe this is going to spur additional economic development," Morris said.
Commercial Jet is expected to have access to about 400,000 square feet of space at the airport and believes it will employ 500 in about three years. However, Morris said there is additional space at the airport for other companies and that three other businesses have been in contact to express interest in the facilities.
A total of between $13 million and $14 million in repairs and renovations will be done to the hangars and other facilities.
"Some of the buildings Commercial Jet will use were built in 1942," Morris said. "A lot has not substantially changed. There are some things that simply need to be brought up to date. Plus, there are some roof leaks, fire systems that need to be upgraded, some fencing and some parking lot repairs. It seems like a lot of minor things. But, when it all adds up, it's a big bill."
Morris said he still expects the local airport authority to assume oversight of the air traffic control tower on June 16, the day after the Federal Aviation Administration halts funding.
"And maybe this will be a good thing to get off the federal dollar so you don't have the feds telling you what you can do and can't do with your tower," Morris said.
Rane was the keynote speaker for the forum. He spoke about the modest beginnings of his pressure-treated wood preserving business and how an infusion of capital and a clever marketing campaign helped build the brand. Rane said Great Southern Wood now has more than $1 billion in annual sales and exports into several other countries.
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