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It appears that a $210 million expansion of an aerospace maintenance campus at Pensacola International Airport is a go after Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson received confirmation of a $20 million funding pledge from the state of Florida Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, Florida Department of Transportation officials sent a letter to Robinson confirming $20 million in additional infrastructure funding needed to fully fund the expansion of ST Engineering’s (formerly known as VT MAE) aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility within the city.

A rending shows the potential site plan of ST Engineering’s aerospace campus at Pensacola International Airport.

“I am proud to announce City of Pensacola has secured the remaining funding for Project Titan, which will expand the Aviation Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) campus at the Pensacola International Airport,” Robinson said Wednesday.

FDOT Assistant Secretary for Strategic Development, Thomas Byron, stated that the $20 million in funding would be secured by removing funding from “several other projects” around the state, none of which have been publicly identified. FDOT has already committed $25 million towards the project.

Project tops $170 million in public incentives

The announcement by FDOT comes on the heels of both the City of Pensacola and Escambia County voting this month to commit another $10 million each in Local Option Sales Tax funds towards the project, bringing the total public incentives to lure the company to more than $170 million. ST Engineering has committed $35 million towards the project, which could bring more than 1,300 direct jobs to the city.

The largest funding commitment comes from Triumph Gulf Coast, the board charged with dispersing some $1.5 billion coming to Northwest Florida in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Triumph has committed $65 million in incentives to help the company expand. As part of it’s commitment, the Triumph board is requiring that the company create at least 1,325 new jobs and retain them for no less than seven years. If those job requirements aren’t met, the board could request those funds to be returned.

Wednesday’s commitment by FDOT brings the city towards the finish line in securing the more than $210 million needed to build out the aerospace campus, which includes the construction of three massive hangers, along with administrative and support facilities.

Former Pensacola mayor Ashton Hayward with VT Systems CEO John Coburn in 2014. (City of Pensacola/Special to The Pulse)

The culmination of more than five years of negotiations

More than 5 years ago, former Mayor Ashton Hayward began the process to recruit ST Engineering, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, a Singaporean holding company owned by the Government of Singapore. Long based in nearby Mobile, the company opened a $46 million maintenance hangar at the airport last year, promising 400 new jobs.

“It takes money to make money,” Hayward said in 2017. “We have to be willing to invest in our community. When’s the last time Pensacola invested in itself?”

If the full project is realized, ST Engineering would bring more than 1,300 additional jobs to Pensacola International Airport, becoming the fifth largest private-sector employer in Escambia County, according to the Greater Pensacola Chamber. Officials estimate the expanded project could also result in the creation of another 3,400 indirect new jobs.

Once fully completed, the proposed MRO campus would occupy more than 775,000 square feet adjacent to Pensacola International Airport. The project would use much of the so-called “Airport Commerce Park” property, an area of about 65 acres on the airport’s northwest side, which the airport has been slowly acquiring over the past 13 years.

If all goes as planned, the four-hangar MRO campus could be fully operational by 2023.

This story will be updated. 

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