BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL-TV) – The Tennessee Legislature passed legislation this week that will allow the Tri-Cities Regional Airport to move forward with a proposed aerospace park on the airport grounds.

Previously, the Tri-Cities Airport Authority could not borrow money by issuing bonds, but the legislation that was passed changed the rules. The legislation passed both the senate and house unanimously.

“The general assembly passed an amendment to the state regional airport authority act that allows the various partners that created the Tri-Cities Regional Airport, the cities and counties in the region, to come together and, if they choose to, it allows them to fund a project to the development or aerospace park here at Tri-Cities Airport.”, Tri-Cities Airport Authority Executive Director Patrick Wilson said.

It allows the Tri-Cities Regional Airport Authority to borrow money and issue revenue bonds and allow the airport’s partners, Northeast Tennessee city and county governments, to pledge their full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power as guarantors to pay the principal and interest on bonds.

Wilson added, “It allows the cities and counties, if they choose to, to come together to back the debt that will be issued to complete the aerospace park site. So now the cities and counties are in the process of developing their budgets, and they are working some number into their budgets so that hopefully by the beginning of the fiscal year 2018, which starts in July, that they would be able to accommodate this and we could move forward with the issuance of debt to do the construction.”

Aerospace Park is a 160 acre development site on the airport that is designed to give the aerospace industry a place to bring manufacturing, bring maintenance repair, overhaul work in the aerospace industry, bring jobs to the region. It will allow them to take advantage of the airport facilities, take advantage of the workforce development programs available at Northeast State Community College and other workforce development assets. This 160 acres site has the potential to bring between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs over the long term if it is fully developed.

“We have a 20 acre site in aerospace park that is already ready for immediate development, but we’re run across some opportunities in the past that they have needed much larger sites in the tune of 100 acres plus that they are looking for for their site selection process,”, Wilson said, “So by getting aerospace park out to that level, it allows us to compete for those jobs, compete for that industry to show them that we are immediately ready to meet the needs of what they would be looking for to bring a project in.”

The authority has also been making presentations to the local governments in advance of the fiscal year 2018 beginning on July 1.

“We’ve had a number of meeting with the city managers and county mayors in the planning of this, had an opportunity to present the concept of aerospace park to the various city and county boards and committees and now it is being worked into their budget process and hopefully that will continue right along and after July 1 we would be abel to hopefully proceed with the project.”, Wilson said.