Phoenix-Mesa Airport Welcomes Aviation Businesses

 - February 14, 2012, 10:00 AM

When many communities view airports and aviation as nuisances at best and dangerous at worst, and pressures grow to close airfields and chase aviation away, the story of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IGA) in Arizona shines like an airway beacon.

The former Williams AFB, once the Air Force’s main undergraduate pilot training base. It has undergone slow, though more recently accelerating, growth since the last T-38 Talon took off from its trio of two-mile-long concrete runways more than two decades ago.

This week in Dallas at Heli-Expo 2012, Able Aerospace, a Phoenix-area component repair company, announced plans to break ground on a 191,000-square-foot MRO facility in late March or early April. Not only was Able allowed to proceed, but it received $22 million in financing from the Mesa Gateway Airport Authority, along with tax and import duty benefits from Gateway Airport’s status as a Military Re-use Zone and a Foreign Trade Zone.

The financing permitted Able to invest $10 million of its own in capital improvements to enlarge its operation and expand employment from 320 to more than 400 by this time next year.

The airport authority’s business- and aviation-friendly attitude has already attracted Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, Embraer, L-3 Communications, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing’s military helicopter flight test activities, along with commercial airlines Allegiant and Spirit.

Able Aerospace’s phase one plans includes a 30,000-square-foot hangar with taxiway and runway access, which will enable CEO Lee Benson’s company to provide on-aircraft maintenance in addition to component repair. Phase two includes adding another 70,000-square-feet to Able’s facility.

The financing and tax breaks were not just for Benson’s benefit. Mesa City Councilwoman Dina Higgins told AIN, “These incentives are available to anybody else that wants them.”

The Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority includes the cities of Mesa, Phoenix, Gilbert, Queen Creek, and the Gila River Indian Tribe.