MONTROSE – In the end, given the buildup, the special meeting of the Montrose Board of County Commissioners last Wednesday (Oct. 13) on negotiations to bring Extra Aircraft to Montrose, had an air of anti-climax to it.
Events preceding the meeting, including the moving of the venue to cavernous Friendship Hall, and the controversy surrounding the frankly discouraging due-diligence report from Boyd Group International, led some to expect more political fireworks, or, as at least one local newspaper had suggested, a complete abandonment of the project.
Instead, Extra Aircraft president and CEO Ken Keith and Vice President of Business Development Errol Bader sat calmly at one table onstage facing the commissioners on the other side. Keith made a short power-point presentation about why the company wanted to manufacture its business-class airplane in North America rather than in Germany, where they are made now. (The answer was, of course, economics; the U.S. is by far the world’s biggest market for general aviation.)
Then, Commissioner Gary Ellis said what everyone had come to hear. The Boyd report had indeed been sobering regarding the initial proposal and its financial risk to the county. The county may have tried to promise too much to get Extra here and running. But that was all in the past, Ellis said. Extra had come up with an entirely new proposal, one “that is something that I think Montrose can do.”
In brief, the county would initially provide Extra with space, about 25,000 square feet, in an existing hangar on airport property the county already owns. Then, if the company thrives, the county would build additional metal-frame hangars into which Extra could expand, up to seven or eight hangars, according to Extra’s Bader.
The new proposal has three crucial benefits, Ellis said. “It would mean very little financial risk to the county. It would develop assets at the airport. And three, these are assets that, should the enterprise fail, we would still own the facility. The commissioners feel we should seriously consider this.”
He reiterated that negotiations are ongoing, and also include the City of Montrose, the Montrose Economic Development Corporation, Region 10 and the State Office of Economic Development. “If we take any action tonight,” Ellis said, “it will be to say that the county is willing to go forward with this new proposal.”
Comments from the community were decidedly encouraging. Wallace Smith, a vocal critic of the first deal, told the commissioners, “We need to bury the axes and get on with life, and go forward.”
Cindy Groskopf of Hotchkiss asked Ken Keith: “Is this still doable?” To which Keith answered, “Yes.” “Can the other partners do what they say they can do?” she asked. “Yes,” said Keith.
Ellis summed up: “The asset we’re going to create will be economical and practical. I think these,” he said, gesturing toward Keith and Bader, “are honorable men. I think they’re a successful company. I think they want the best for Montrose. I think we’d be foolish to let the opportunity go by. I’m ready, Mr. Chairman, to make a motion.”
Ellis meandered through a long, technical sentence and then asked County Attorney Robert Hill to confirm that what he had just said was accurate. Hill got up and walked to the microphone stand on the floor – he didn’t have a mic at his table – and said, finally, “This is a little anti-climactic, but ‘Yes.’”