More than 75 citizens were at a Bee County Chamber of Commerce luncheon listening to an economic impact study report when BDA Board President Laura Fischer made the public announcement.
Jerry Walker of Impact Data Source of Austin was speaking to those at the gathering when Fischer stood up to deliver the news. The money will be used to help pay the cost of building a 38,000-square-foot, free-standing warehouse at the former naval air station.
Earlier in the day, BDA Executive Director Joe B. Montez had confirmed the news when he was contacted in Austin.
Montez, BDA administrative consultant John Longoria and Beeville native Wil Galloway had just left a session of the Texas Military Preparedness Commission when they were reached.
Montez explained that commission members had $1,135,000 on the table to award in grants during their meeting and eight applications to consider.
The BDA had requested $800,000 of that money to help fund the construction of the warehouse.
But the BDA’s application came in second to a grant request filed by the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Montez said. So the commissioners asked the two applicants if they would be willing to split the amount of money on the table. Montez said both entities said they would accept that decision.
“We’re pretty happy about it,” Montez said.
“It was very competitive,” Longoria said. The Corpus Christi-based consultant said he, Montez and Galloway sat in the audience during the meeting. “We didn’t know until it was announced.”
Galloway, now an Austin attorney who has assisted the City of Beeville in legal matters, said he was pleased with the result.
Montez said Longoria, also a Beeville native, had been instrumental in preparing the application and getting it through channels in Austin.
At the luncheon, Fischer thanked newly elected District 35 state Rep. José Aliseda for helping get the grant application approved.
But Aliseda played down his role in acquiring the funds. He said he only made a few phone calls, including one to Gov. Rick Perry and one to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.
Aliseda said he reminded Straus that Chase Field was one of the bases recommended for closure by the federal government’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission. That meant Bee County qualified for those funds probably more than others.
Aliseda sat on the TMPC board at one time and his younger brother, McAllen attorney Ernest Aliseda, was appointed to the board earlier this year by Perry.
Aliseda said he also called some of the board members he had worked with before and encouraged them to support the BDA’s application.
“We worked as a team and we got it done,” Aliseda said.
The job for the BDA now is to find the additional funding needed for the warehouse project.
Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez, Jr. said Thursday afternoon that he had heard of the grant approval.
“This is great news for everybody in our community,” Martinez said. “The number of jobs this could potentially bring is significant.”
“Now, as a community, we need to concentrate our efforts to come up with the $1.2 million needed to build the warehouse,” the mayor said.
So I’ve asked the city staff to work with the Beeville Economic Improvement Corporation to come up with a way to help finance this project. But to do it in a way that will neither deplete all of its reserve funds or add on additional debt.”
“I’m confident the city will do its part in pitching in,” Martinez said. “But it may take others to also contribute.”
The warehouse will be built by the BDA and will be leased to Kay and Associates and the Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance operations at Chase Field.
The two companies refurbish and upgrade Black Hawk helicopters for the U.S. government and other clients throughout the world at the Chase Field facilities they lease now. The warehouse is expected to add as many as 175 new jobs to the 300 already in place at the airport.
Average salaries at the facility are about $48,000 a year.
Montez has said that when the U.S. military starts winding down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sikorsky will need space to keep helicopters being refurbished.
The warehouse is expected to bring in $60,000 a year in leasing fees to the BDA.