The DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport could soon have two new tenants as the City Council voted to begin drawing up lease agreements with two helicopter-related firms.
The Council members voted unanimously at its regular meeting on June 11 to move toward bringing in the pair of new businesses on leases of one-to-three-year terms at a rate of $1,000 per month.
The first firm focuses on the repair of small helicopters, the only such business for hundreds of miles, but a company representative nevertheless requested that the terms of the lease be for one year as the availability of work would rely on word getting out about the services offered by the firm. The second firm holds eight government contracts, primarily using its helicopters to fight fires on military bases in the area, though its 60 employees are spread out as far west as California and as far north as Washington D.C.
James Raquel, owner of TRG, the second firm, said his Gulf Breeze-based business will likely expand its portfolio rapidly in the coming months as the Air Force, the company’s primary client, consolidates its contracts. This means TRG could expand its fleet from one helicopter to three or four plus a fixed-wing aircraft. He said TRG could theoretically support 15 or so high-end, skill-intensive jobs such as pilots and mechanics, with salaries averaging in the $80,000 range for the former and $65,000 for the latter.
It was decided that the lease agreements with both firms would include 60-day right-of-rescission clauses applicable to either the city or the tenant. One of the only requirements of either firm was that the hangars they aim to occupy be equipped with modular office space at the city’s expense to help keep startup costs down. Though a dollar amount was not discussed at the time of the meeting, the Council agreed to have city staff look into purchasing trailers for use as office space as future tenants at the airport could make use of them.
In other airport-related news, the Council also voted unanimously to award an $837,380 contract for the first phase of site development at the location of a new hangar. The Council unanimously decided to award an $88,840 contract for the purpose of quality assurance-focused on-site inspection in relation to the previous site development project. City Manager Sara Bowers said 80 percent of the funds needed for the contracts come from Florida Department of Transportation grants to the city.