CONNELLSVILLE - Federal, state, local and county officials Thursday took the first visible step in a
project said to enhance the area's economy, breaking ground at the site of a new general aviation terminal
at the Connellsville Airport.
Construction will begin Monday on the $2.2 million project and will be finished by the turn of 2006,
according to project manager Joe Grubbs of Michael Baker Jr. Inc.
Daboin said the improved airport will provide for economic development and growth, making new
businesses want to locate in the area.
"This facility will thrive not only as an airport, but as a corporate center for the area," she said.
She added that the Connellsville Airport contributes more than $4 million to the economy and is directly
or indirectly responsible for 65 jobs a year.
"Our airports are... economy generators that stimulate businesses and economic conditions," Daboin said.
State Sen. Richard Kasunic (D-Dunbar) said the terminal will offer convenience for businessmen who fly
into the county and land at the airport, and the chance for easy access to tourist destinations and hotel
stays. He named Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa and Ohiopyle as a couple of beneficiaries of the
new terminal project.
"We're all in a hurry," he said. "If we can move people in and out of here, it gives the chance for this
county to blossom."
Kasunic said the airport has sat stagnant for too long. He said highway and railway projects have come to
the area, and the only thing that wasn't moving forward was the county's aviation system.
"We have a jewel here that needs dusted off and to move forward," he said. "This is something we have
awaited and worked so hard to accomplish and achieve."
Kasunic said he remembers when he sat on the board of the Fayette County Airport Authority (FCAA) a
few years ago, at the time when the project was thought up.
"We saw and recognized the people responsible for this vital economic link to Fayette County's health and
well-being. ...Now with new faces and fresh ideas... things started happening," he said.
The 6,200-square-foot terminal will house the airport office, office rental space, fixed-base operators'
offices, pilot amenities, a snack bar, a conference room and a spacious lobby.
A 24,000-square-foot covered parking canopy will create 31 additional parking spaces, Grubbs said.
Funding for the project has been secured through the state Bureau of Aviation's Aviation Development
Program and the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement program.
General Industries is the general contractor for the project, Pine Hollow Mechanical is the mechanical
contractor, Newco Mechanical is the plumbing contractor, Keystone Electrical Systems is the electrical
contractor and Michael Baker Jr. Inc. is the architect/engineer.
State Rep. James Shaner (D-Dunbar) called the project "another step forward for Fayette County."
"We've been talking about moving this airport forward for as long as I can remember," Shaner said. "It's a
great day to move Fayette County forward, and I am elated about that."
Zimmerlink said the commissioners are happy to work with those involved in the terminal project, and the
commissioners will be there to help on future airport/aviation improvements.
Vicites said a respectable terminal building is vital for when people fly into the county.
He also spoke of the runway project slated as another improvement at the airport.
"We're going to see that runway extension sooner or later," he said. "We can land our corporate jets there
and that will open it up to all of Fayette County as an economic development tool."
According to airport authority Chairman Fred K. Davis, the terminal is the cornerstone of the authority's
ambitious improvements program that began in early 2003.
Davis said that in the 1960s, the airport was ideally situated to be a hub of the county, and that vision did
not come to fruition until Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony.
"Today, that vision has taken its first step," Davis said. "Today, there's this highly visible demonstration to
grow this airport and grow our county."
Under way at the airport now are other "invisible" improvements, such as water and sewage line
construction and safety improvements to Runway 1432, Davis said.
Â©The Herald Standard 2005