Money for upgrades to infrastructure at airport

The City of Rolla has received more than $1 million in grant funds from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support infrastructure improvements at the Rolla National Airport.

On Friday, the EDA announced it had awarded a grant totaling $1,044,248 to the City of Rolla. The grant will help support the construction of upgrades to the water, sewer and road infrastructure for an industrial park at the airport located in Vichy in Maries County, north of Rolla.

Rolla City Administrator John Butz said the improvements will include a new 300,000-gallon water tower and updated water and sewer lines. The water improvements will provide the area with a better fire suppression power that has never been available at the airport before, Butz said.

Additionally, work will include new linings in the wells and a new sewer collection and treatment system.

City crews will perform the water and sewer line work in-house and most of the remaining work will be completed by a contractor to be chosen later.

The project is part of a comprehensive master plan for development of the airport. Most of the infrastructure at the airport dates back to the 1940s, Butz said.

"We were ecstatic," said Butz of the news of the grant being awarded to Rolla. "We knew if we could get something going out there (at the airport), we could attract some real opportunities for Maries and Phelps counties."

The grant, Butz said, will allow Rolla to expand the infrastructure being installed at the airport to a point that would allow more businesses to develop there. Butz said the EDA is a critical part to growth at the airport.

In late January of this year, Brewer Science Inc. announced plans to construct of a 25,000-square-foot high-volume technology manufacturing facility at the airport that will produce materials for next-generation smartphones, tablet computers and other microelectronic devices.

"Our commitment to 'Made-in-Missouri' products with a 'Show-Me' workforce is the reason we have maintained our technology-manufacturing base in Missouri for over 30 years," said Dr. Terry Brewer, founder and CEO of Brewer Science.

"We are a global company that is committed to growing and expanding our facilities in Missouri. We will continue producing the technology that enables the creation of products such as smartphones, tablet computers, cameras and many other electronic devices," Brewer said.

The infrastructure improvements will support expansion of existing companies, including advanced manufacturing businesses and others seeking to locate in the industrial park, while improving air transportation for the region.

Butz said the next step is for the EDA to give the city information on how the grant funds will be leveraged. Then the Rolla City Council will act on executing the grant at a later meeting.

This investment is part of a project totaling $2,389,519 that Rolla city officials estimate will create 65 jobs and generate $13 million in private investment, according to the EDA website.

A grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has been rolled into the project for road and airport improvements.

Butz estimated the city's share of the project will be between $700,000 and $800,000, with most of that amount being the city's equipment and labor expenses.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, of Missouri, applauded the news of the grant being awarded to Rolla.

"These critical resources will help grow jobs and bolster the economy in mid-Missouri by supporting important transportation and infrastructure projects at the Rolla National Airport," Blunt said.

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application's merit, the applicant's eligibility and the availability of funds. The EDA is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce.