Airport execs seek aircraft-maintenance cluster

A maintenance facility for jet aircraft planned for Reno Tahoe International Airport this year is a key step toward development of a cluster of aircraft maintenance companies in northern Nevada, airport executives say.

Western Jet Aviation of Van Nuys, Calif., said last week it will lease a 24,500-square-foot building at Reno Tahoe International Airport for a facility that provides heavy maintenance service for Gulfstream corporate jets.

The maintenance center, scheduled for opening during the fourth quarter, initially will employ 10. Allen Eggers, the chief financial officer and co-owner of Western Jet Aviation, said the company expects employment will quickly grow to 20, mostly hired locally.

Tina Iftiger, economic development director of the airport, said the decision by Western Jet is especially important because it comes on the heels of a similar decision by Dassault Aviation Services last year to launch a maintenance facility at the airport.

Since its opening in the spring of 2009, Dassault's 40,000-square-foot Falcon repair facility in Reno has been growing from an initial staff of about 20.

"Dassault proved up our market," Iftiger said. Airport officials now are prospecting other airport maintenance companies in an effort to create an industry cluster.

A cluster of jet maintenance companies, Iftiger said, likely would be followed by suppliers to the industry.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport offers those companies a full-service commercial airport that can serve aircraft owners in northern California, Oregon and Washington, she said.

"But the proximity by itself isn't enough," Iftiger said.

In wooing Western Jet, Reno-Tahoe International executives detailed the potential savings in operating costs in northern Nevada compared with other locations and spelled out potential tax advantages.

Another advantage: "We have a board that is pro-development," Iftiger said.

While the corporate jet industry has slumped with the rest of the economy, airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said Reno-Tahoe International expects the industry including its maintenance facilities to rebound.

The building occupied by Western Jet is at the end of Gentry Way on the southwest corner of the airport. The space currently is occupied by Jet West, a fixed-base operator that decided not to renew its lease after the first of July.

Western Jet was launched in Van Nuys in 1999.

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