FAA designation No. 1 priority

ALPENA – Alpena County Commissioner Tom Mullaney provided an update on the effort to get granted a Federal Aviation Administration “Center of Excellence of Unmanned Air Vehicles” that could put Alpena in the forefront of drone testing, training and development.

Mullaney said one of the requirements set by the FAA was that interested parties needed to be corporations before being considered for one of the federal designations. The papers have been filed and now the Michigan Advance Aerial System Consortium is a legitimate corporation. The corporation is made up of a board of directors that features Mullaney as the vice president and board Chair Cam Habermehl. Mullaney said now that this last requirement has been met, the attention will turn to getting money from the state to help sell Alpena and Michigan to those in the unmanned aircraft industry.

He said it will take a significant amount of money to travel and take part in industry conferences and meetings. He said the corporation has asked the state for $2.6 million to help the cause and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is helping to garner the fund from the legislature. Mullaney said the final information for the request for proposal has been submitted and he thinks Alpena has a good chance to be granted one of the six designations.

“It may sound like a lot of money, but it is not cheap to go to these trade shows where all of the major corporations, military representatives and different countries are, and the money we are seeking would allow us to go to the different events and to help us sell Alpena and Michigan as the center,” Mullaney said. “We’re very hopeful this will transpire and I think we are ahead of a lot of people. We have had to dodge a few bullets that have come and some things that could have been detrimental to this, but I feel good about our chances.”

Mullaney said Alpena is going to be a host for a special workshop for those who are involved in the unmanned aircraft project. He said in August as many as 125 people will be in town to tour the airport, the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and other events at places like the APlex.

“It will basically be for the members of the corporations and working members of the project. At this point I’m not sure how much of it will be open to the public,” Mullaney said. “We will make more information available about it as it gets closer.”

Habermehl said it wasn’t always smooth sailing, but now that the final filings are in to the FAA, he believes things could fall Alpena’s way and it could be announced as a center of excellence later this summer.

“I think we have a really good chance. We have done a lot of work and the two consultants have done an excellent job in putting together the package for the RFP,” Habermehl said. “I think we have as good or better chance than anybody else who has submitted proposals. I feel confident and I know we have done the best we can. If it goes our way that is great and if it doesn’t we know we did the best we would and we can still move forward with our original project.”

In other business:

  • the board voted to hire Eric Vanderveer as the new IT director. He is replacing Brad McRoberts who was acting as the director on an interim basis. The personnel committee brought in IT directors from Grand Traverse County, Antrim County and Cheboygan County to help find the best candidate. Before the vote to hire Vanderveer, Habermehl abstained, because he is Vanderveer’s uncle.
  • Habermehl reappointed Commissioners Lyle VanWormer, Mark Hall and himself to the Internet ad hoc committee.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com