Lakeland Airport Awarded $4.6 Million Grant to Build New Hangar

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) started Lakeland and Polk County officials’ week on a positive note when it announced Monday that it approved a $4,692,176 million grant to build a MRO facility on Lakeland Linder International Airport property.

The airport, along with the city of Lakeland, applied for the grant from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund in September to spur economic growth in one of the fastest-growing industries in the state: aviation. The DEO established the fund to “promote economic opportunity by improving public and enhancing workforce training,” according to the Floridajobs.org. The fund will issue $85 million in grants in 2018-19.

The city of Lakeland has pledged a $7 million match to the grant — 50 percent of the grant amount the airport applied for — and will also pitch in $12.6 million toward the $40.7 million price tag. The grant application states another $13.4 million will come from other grants including Polk County.

“We are grateful for Gov. (Rick) Scott’s confidence in the city of Lakeland and our airport to deliver a successful project with this grant award,” said airport Executive Director Gene Conrad. “We have worked diligently with our federal, state and county partners over the last decade to put the critical infrastructure and workforce pieces in place to support our intermodal development. At the end of the day, it is our mission to drive economic development for our region, and the grant award by the governor will help us do just that.”

In its grant application, Conrad said the money will be used to build a hangar facility to attract a well-established company to “expand or relocate operations to the airport.” The project has already started and will be completed in October 2019, Conrad said.

It is expected to add about 400 jobs in aircraft maintenance and repair as well as cargo, high-skill, high-wage positions that will help diversify the city’s economy, Conrad said. In addition, the application says two unnamed companies are considering moving operations to Lakeland Linder, bringing an additional 75 to 125 jobs in the first year alone.

In its release, the DEO said: “These proposals were reviewed by DEO, Enterprise Florida Inc. and chosen by Governor Scott based on their strong return on investment to the state and to meet the demand for a robust workforce or infrastructure needs. Return on investment was calculated to determine the best projects for the state and economic development in the regions.”

With 1 million square feet of airport space fully leased, Lakeland Linder needs more facilities, and this grant will help in that regard. The city is already building a new ramp and infrastructure for air cargo.

The application also discusses the pipeline of new maintenance in the area, students who have attended the Central Florida Air Academy and Polk State College, both located on airport property. Students graduate with hands-on experience and can put their certificates or degrees to work quickly when filling open positions in Polk County.