11/27/2007 12:00 AM
The Bee Development Authority (BDA) recently received a $400,000 grant from the Texas Military Preparedness Commission that will help revitalize Chase Field Industrial Park and support 60 new jobs for Beeville and the surrounding area.
The grant application was submitted by BDA at the recommendation of the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) as part of its ongoing Chase Field market study. The study will identify potential business expansion and attraction opportunities for the former military facility.
When researching Chase Field development opportunities, TEEX's Economic Development Program identified the $5 million Texas Legislative appropriation to fund Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance grants. The grants are designed to assist communities like Beeville with closed or realigned military bases.
"When we called BDA Executive Director Joe Montez, he and his team got right on the job of preparing the grant application and turned it around in a very short time," TEEX Economic Development Program Manager Joan Quintana said. "Putting together these applications is a lot of work and requires considerable local collaboration."
Locally leveraged funds of $100,000 will provide BDA a total of $500,000 to invest in Chase Field.
The funds will support construction of a 3,000-square-foot building to house an environmentally-friendly helicopter painting facility operated by Sikorsky Support Services, Inc. Sikorsky currently employs about 60 at Chase Field and plans to expand operations at the industrial park.
Additionally, the funding will provide support for improvements to two hangars and an existing fire station at Chase Industrial Park.
TEEX is currently working with BDA to conduct a marketing study and planning project aimed at identifying the best opportunities for expanding employment at the former base. TEEX will place an emphasis on research and evaluation of opportunities to develop Chase Field as an aviation industrial facility for the region.
The Texas Engineering Experiment Station, or TEES, is assisting TEEX by evaluating the state of the existing hangars, airfield and other aviation facilities on the base site and providing recommendations for investments in upgrades and enhancements to the existing facilities.
Last week TEEX briefed the BDA board on the status of the planning project and conducted a community leadership workshop with Bee County leaders in an effort to gather local input into the ongoing planning effort.
"Chase Field is a great asset for the Beeville area and this $400,000 grant will demonstrate the state's and the community's commitment to Sikorsky and other potential employers," Quintana said. "It's gratifying to have a win on the funding side so early in this process, particularly in light of the great expectations we all have for Chase Field and Beeville."
Chase Field Naval Air Station opened in 1943 and after serving several roles for naval aviators, was decommissioned in 1991.