Councilman sees high-flying future for aerospace in Charlotte

June 4th, 2019

By DANIEL SUTPHIN, Staff Writer - Charlotte Sun

Florida state agency Space Florida could be joining the effort to bring Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul operations to Punta Gorda Airport.

The Charlotte County Airport Authority is in talks to launch MRO operations at the airport through Fort Myers company Intrepid Aerospace, an FAA-approved repair station.

If the partnership is approved on June 20 at the authority meeting, the MRO hangar − to be built at the airport − could bring hundreds to thousands of aerospace industrial jobs to the county.

Last month, Punta Gorda Councilman Jaha Cummings met with Matt Chesnut, of Space Florida, and Dave Gammon, interim director of the Charlotte County economic development office, to discuss the state agency’s potential involvement in the project.

Space Florida and the MRO program will be big for Charlotte County and Punta Gorda, according to Cummings. We talked to him about why that is.

Q: Why is it important to include Space Florida?

A: I felt that it was important to include Space Florida because they are the state agency charged with the promotion of aerospace business development. I believe that aerospace business is one that Charlotte County can be a leader in (in the future).

Q: How does Space Florida help?

A: Space Florida can serve as a conduit in financing transactions in situations where land ownership is not possible, help with equipment financing, infrastructure funding for improvements within the Florida Spaceports territory (currently NASA/Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and Cecil Commerce Center) and provide access to additional financing, workforce recruiting and training support.

Q: What is the MRO?

A: An aviation MRO is a company that specializes in performing maintenance actions on aircraft and their components.

Intrepid is a FAA-approved repair station with Limited Airframe and Limited Accessories ratings, specializing in sheet metal, advanced composites, interiors, hydraulics, pneumatics and electromechanical components. They provide services to domestic and international operators, FBOs, brokers, and military customers.

Q: What will it provide for Charlotte County workers?

A: The state’s $1.7 million grant for the Charlotte Technical College’s Aviation Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics program ties perfectly into these developments at the airport, because graduates of this program can be employed by the MRO.

Q: Where will the MRO be built, if approved?

A: CCAA is working with Intrepid Aerospace on a land lease for a smaller parcel near existing aviation development on the north ramp. This will allow Intrepid to start serving its customers at smaller facility sooner, while planning for a larger facility on a longer-term, parallel track.

PGD (the airport) has ample airside space available to develop a hangar complex that will service jets as large as 767s, potentially creating hundreds of new high-wage jobs, millions in revenues and exponential ancillary economic benefits.

Q: What does this mean for the future of Charlotte County and Punta Gorda?

A: This is an example of the type of collaboration between government, education, and industry that Space Florida encourages in its partners. In coordination with Space Florida, (we) can create a robust aerospace industry economy in Charlotte County that will benefit our workforce and families for many years to come.