Expected SARA lease, new jobs fall through

Published 1:16 am Friday, February 3, 2017

The South Alabama Regional Airport Authority is again looking for a new tenant for its twin hangars.

Last month, airport officials announced that a major aviation company was locating at SARA. A verbal agreement had been negotiated for a five-year lease for the hangars, SARA Co-Director Jed Blackwell said, adding that the new tenant had a contract for $300 million to perform work on 85 C-130s over a period of several years. The company was expected to bring 40 current employees to the local facility, and hire at least 40 more.

Yesterday, airport officials circulated a press release stating that things have changed.

“The airport staff made this announcement as a result of its positive communications with the proposed tenant that it had been awarded an Air Force contract that was proposed specifically for performance at the Twin Hangar complex, and that it expected to enter the negotiated lease for a commencement date as early as February 2017,” the statement said.

“Recently, the proposed tenant informed airport staff that the bid awarded to it was being protested. This type of protest and delay is ‘business as usual’ within the military contract arena. In addition to the protest, the primary contractor has sub-contracted this work to another company,” it said.

“As a result of this development, the airport staff has already explored and will continue to explore, with the assistance of our local, state, and federal elected representatives and our community leaders, the performance of this work for the Air Force at the airport, as well as all other possible prospects for the immediate execution of an option to lease or lease of the Twin Hangar complex in order to reinstate revenue from the Twin Hangar complex and to create opportunities for Covington County workers to find good jobs at home,” the press release said.

Last month, Blackwell told SARA board members there were actually three companies vying for the twin hangar complex when officials reached a verbal agreement with the still-unnamed company.