Three large-scale projects are being wrapped up at the Alexandria Municipal Airport this summer: T-hangar construction, private hangar buildings and Bellanca building updates.
And there's also a fly-in and open house this Saturday, June 5.
All are welcome
The community is invited to the event at the Alexandria Airport from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The free, public event will include displays, vendors and food.
In the aviation world, Alexandria Airport Manager Kreg Anderson said it's called a fly-in because pilots fly into the airport that’s hosting. But for the general public, Anderson refers to it as an open house.
There are some activities that will be returning, such as aviation-related displays and business presenters. The Experimental Aircraft Association will be one of those, offering free plane rides to kids ages 8 to 17.
But Anderson also decided to “spice it up” a bit this year.
Instead of the traditional breakfast meal, he asked Smokin' Brews & 'Ques to serve pulled pork sandwiches. Visitors will also see Classic Car Club vehicles, Viking Speedway cars and an U.S. Axe Throwing opportunity.
“It’s a chance to come out here and see what goes on,” Anderson said. “The allure of it, to me, is you don’t know what else is going to show up. That’s part of the fun.”
High demand for hangars
Anyone can tie down their airplanes outside for free, but ideally, they’d like to park them somewhere indoors, safe from the elements. Plane owners desire this personal space for their prized possessions, Anderson said, and there’s a high demand for them across Minnesota.
“I kinda compare it to houses and apartments,” Anderson said. “You want your own house, your own personal space. It’s always a demand because people want their own space.”
Before getting it approved by the city council, Anderson gathered 10 letters of commitment and showed the waitlist of 36 more names to prove that it was a project with high demand. Once the new T-hangar is completed, there will be 54 hangars at the Alexandria Airport, and all of them will be filled.
“We’re very excited about it,” Anderson said. “It’s a great way to grow the airport. That’s 10 more airplanes that are going to be based here.”
If someone would like to skip ahead of the T-hangar waiting list, there is an alternative route: Build your own.
“It’s been really cool to see people investing in our airport and our community by doing so,” Anderson said.
Three structures with five hangars have been built by private investors in the past two years, and Anderson doesn’t expect this trend to slow down.
There’s land plotted out specifically as openings for these types of structures. There’s room for another six private hangars as well as one or two T-hangars in the same area as the other new buildings.
An open door for aviation business
The third building project at the airport involves the Bellanca building.
When the company’s ground lease with the city of Alexandria expired in 2016, the property was returned to the city.
The city’s next question was what to do with it. Any path was possible: Selling it, letting it stand empty or demolishing it. Anderson said there was a struggle to find funding because when the state and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are looking toward where to put their airport budget, runways and fuel pump projects take precedence over outbuildings, such as the former Bellanca site.
But in 2019, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced an Airport Infrastructure Renewal Program. This grant initiative was geared toward outstate airports with warehouses or other industrial facilities on airport property.
“It was almost unbelievable because it was exactly what we needed with this building,” Anderson said.
Receiving the grant allowed the city to commit to the future investment and what it could do for the Alexandria community, according to Anderson. The city of Alexandria had to match the state’s grant contribution, totaling $362,000. The airport’s timeframe to work from this grant has been March 2020 through June 2021.
Coming up on the conclusion of that 15-month period, Anderson said the contractors have worked tirelessly to make sure the project finishes on time, which has included roofing replacements, heating and cooling system upgrades, brighter lighting installments, gutted office space and bathroom renovations.
“It’s kind of a madhouse over there,” Anderson said. “A lot’s going on, but it feels really good to know that progress is being made with that building.”
Two tenants are currently using about half of the 56,000-square-foot space, and there’s room for a few more businesses.
Alexandria Aircraft LLC -- the “old-school Bellanca guys” -- provide airplane refurbishments, restorations and part sales. Opportunities Enterprise, the other business in the Bellanca building, is a subcontractor for Glenwood-based FAST Global Solutions, one of the largest manufacturers of baggage carts and airport grounds equipment.
Anderson said other businesses interested in utilizing the Bellanca building must be aviation-related and follow a few other guidelines, but he's open to inquiries. The available spaces are stripped down to the concrete, a blank slate for a business to take over as its new home.
“Whatever vision you see for it, you got our support to go do it,” Anderson said.