On Wednesday, the Bradford Regional Airport Authority heard about plans for a new industrial park: The Wilds Commerce Park at Bradford Regional Airport.
Sherri Geary, McKean County director of economic development, gave a presentation on the concept for the park at the airport authority’s meeting.
She explained that in 2018, her department paired with the airport to begin a plan for the business industrial park. They have been working with the firm McFarland Johnson to develop a strategy for a 95-acre business park with 14 lots that can be subdivided.
Ideal uses of the park, according to the plan, would be a fabrication shop, wholesale distribution, manufacturing and agriculture.
As plans for the park were being developed in 2019, an access road was being constructed to the area. Information on the plan for the lot will be put on the websites for the county and the airport for public viewing.
There were several incentives and assets that Geary and Airport Manager Alicia Dankesreiter went over for companies that are looking for a location.
Incentives to use the space include real property tax, sales tax and mortgage tax abatements; bond financing; the availability of a ready industrial site; Keystone Opportunity Zone status; and potential state incentives.
Regional, economic and community assets outlined in the plan include the Allegheny National Forest, recreation, agriculture, historic downtowns, quality of life, a low cost of living, a strong manufacturing legacy, workforce, an entrepreneurial ecosystem and business support systems.
When she was going through the list of possible restraints in the project, Geary said one issue is that part of the 95-acre property is zoned as commercial/residential rather than industrial.
Dankesreiter said they met with Lafayette Township officials a week ago, and they were “open to the idea” of changing the zoning to industrial.
“They made us feel they were willing to work with us on that,” Geary agreed.
As they went through the list of utilities for the site, Dankesreiter said one issue is finding reliable wireless service.
“We don’t have the bandwidth,” explained Geary.
Later in the meeting, Dankesreiter said she at one time was given a quote from a service provider of $10,000 to get the infrastructure in place to have better wireless options, which is not in the airport’s budget. Authority member Rob Huber suggested it could be cheaper if the airport found someone themselves to do the work, and Dankesreiter agreed to look into it.
After watching the presentation, Mark Cestari, chief commercial officer for Southern Airways Express, said the plan “looks great” and offered the airline to help accommodate prospective tenants of the park.
“Southern would be happy to fly-in any prospects as our guests,” he said.
Ryan Dach, Bradford station manager and director of stations for Southern Airways Express, said there were 242 enplanements in January and 221 deplanements. Out of the 107 flights scheduled, 18 were canceled due to weather, for a completion rate of about 82%.
Dankesreiter noted that the only time the airport closes the runways is during ice events, as they are not allowed to use cheaper ice-melting substances such as regular sidewalk salt.
Using potassium acetate — which is an approved substance — would cost $6,000 per application, she said.
“Despite that gloomy report, we did have our best January ever,” Cestari said, noting that weather issues are “kind of a structural problem” at small airports in Pennsylvania.
Cestari brought up an issue that all airlines are currently facing: coronavirus. He anticipates it will start having an impact on the industry and noted that many people who fly are wearing facemasks.
Cestari also said Southern is in talks with airports in Buffalo and Albany about flights between the two New York cities. While current talks are just about that link, he noted that down the road Bradford might consider a route to Buffalo in addition to its current route to Pittsburgh.
Regarding the rehabilitation project at the terminal, Dankesreiter said the interior should be pretty well done in the next couple of weeks.
A grand reopening event will take place in August, with the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, N.Y., bringing an A-47 aircraft — aka “Whiskey 7” — as well as a smaller aircraft for rides.
Also, the Easter Bunny will visit the airport on April 4.
In other news, she said they will bid for a service provider under the Essential Air Service program, with a request for proposals to go out in springtime. They should find out in October who is selected as the airport’s carrier.
Dankesreiter said the airport has been “strongly recommended” to designate an alternate airport security coordinator. She serves as the airport security coordinator. She suggested that someone from the county’s Emergency Management Agency might be a good fit.