Committee recommends pursuing development

ALPENA – The Alpena County Finance Committee voted to recommend entering into a three month contract with Target Alpena for the service of Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce staff, including Economical Development Director Jim Klarich to help find suitors for the county’s property at Alpena County Regional Airport.

The deal will cost the county $1,200 a month and will allow Klarich to pursue unmanned aircraft business, or other potential development on Airport Road. Commissioner Cam Habermehl explained to the committee why incorporating help from Klarich and the chamber is needed.

“He will work with the (Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center) to find appropriate commecial UAS airspace business, indentify and contact businesses that may want to uitilize assets of the airport,” Habermehl said. “I think Jim has done one heck of a job working with us the last several months. I think to this point he has done more work and helped us than what the state has.”

Klarich was involved in the county’s pursuit of an FAA Center of Excellence for unmanned aircraft testing, which it lost out on. The county still has hopes to drum up drone bunsiess, however. To help with the effort, the county also is interested in continuing its relationship with Explorer Solutions, which has led the way in helping Alpena County find its unmanned aircraft nitch.

The first phase of the new agreement, if approved by the full board, will be to continue to ready the airport and businesses for drone activity. Habermehl said because of the pursuit of the designation, the original plan has been slowed, but with the help of Klarich and Explorer Solutions, things can continue forward as originally planned. The cost of the use of the deal with Explorer Solutions is to not exceed $12,000.

“When the center of excellence came in from the national government, it sort of threw a monkey wrench in the whole project,” Habermehl said. “That was never part of the original plan. Everything just sort of stopped as far as working with interested companies and development for almost a year. Explorer Solutions is still looking for companies as well and will continue. This time we can hire them as we need them and I think they still have a lot to offer us.”

The money to pay for Explorer Soutions and Target is coming from the cconomic development line item in the county’s budget. There was $75,000 deposited into the fund from an financial assurance stipend from the Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena Solid Waste Management Authority.

Klarich said there has been interest in unmanned aircraft business at the airport, but luring and finalizing deals with them is not something that will happen overnight. He said there is a four or five year window for landing a big-box type store like Meijer, and it will take longer for aircraft business, because of the logists involved.

“There is a lot to it and the window of time it takes to hammer out deals and get something done and built will take longer,” Klarcih said. “I’m confident that there will be significant development at the airport, but people need to know that is not something that is going to be done quickly.”

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