ALPENA, MI – More money was requested by Alpena County Commissioner Chairman Cameron Habermehl for economic development efforts at the Alpena County Regional Airport.
Chairman Cameron Habermehl requested and received approval for another $20,000 for the project at the Alpena County Regional Airport that is in relation to prospective tenants or companies to locate at the airport in relation to the development of unmanned aircraft projects.
For many months secrecy surrounded the drone project that was being developed at the Alpena County Regional Airport. Finally official announcements were made about what was taking shape. Expectations in the community soared to heights that had not been witnessed in a very long time. That project was the talk of the town.
On December 30th, 2013, after a great deal of anticipation and very high hopes that had been touted in almost every media format in the area for the Alpena community, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it had chosen six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators across the United States, but Alpena was not selected as one of them. It was a huge disappointment to the area that was counting on a needed economic boost.
Alpena County in 2011 hired Explorer Solutions, a consulting company, at the price of almost $179,000. Explorer Solutions determined the unmanned aircraft business was a fit for the area that could lead to development.
Less than one month after Alpena lost out on the designation, on January 17th, 2014, Christian Perrault of Explorer Solutions stated that his firm had high expectations for the airport despite the announcement that Michigan was not chosen as a federal testing site for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Perrault expects the federal government to open up airspace for drones in 2015 and believes the Alpena airport could still capitalize on that growing industry. He said his company has already networked with several companies about Alpena and all that remained to be done was to secure those clients. Perrault continued on that he was confident his firm could help bring one of the companies to town, if not at the airport then somewhere else in the county.
In February of 2014 Alpena County Commissioners approved two new scope of services agreements for continued economic development support at the airport.
Fast forward to now July of 2014 and once again the shroud of secrecy remains as to why more money is needed for this project at the airport. Pulling from a direct quote from WATZ.com, Habermehl said, “Things are moving along really quite well right now. A lot of things we can’t get into details on because the companies just don’t like that. They like their privacy until something happens and that’s where we’re at. Things are coming along really well, I think we’ve… it’s kicked into full gear now.”
Habermehl hoped that by this mid fall, there could be some announcements made which involve “some”, but saying “several would be over stretching.”
“Its like we finally stepped up a gear. The center of excellence kind of slowed us down, everything was kind of on hold for that year… and it seems like things are moving now. Hopefully we’ll see some results real soon for all our hard work.”
Thousands upon thousands of dollars have already been spent and more was just approved to what end? The Alpena community deserves to know the expectations for which the money is being spent. With continued money being allocated and spent by the county, the community this time is expecting tangible results.