ESCANABA - The Delta County Board of Commissioners were updated on the Delta County Airport's involvement in the Upper Michigan Green Aviation Coalition (UMGAC) at Tuesday's statutory board meeting.
Kelly Smith, assistant manager of the Delta County Airport and manager of the Renaissance Zone Industrial Park, said UMGAC is an organization created just a few years ago among the Delta County, Sawyer International and Houghton County airports, as well as Telkite Enterprises.
According to its website, the coalition contains private and public sector members or stakeholders participating in the creation of an "industry cluster" surrounding the concept of green, or environmental friendly, aviation.
"Basically that means we're putting a bunch of companies together, whether they're in the United States, in the U.P., or international, to hopefully bring in jobs and bring in new business into the Upper Peninsula," explained Smith.
UMGAC received a U.S. Small Business Administration contract award of more than $1.4 million for two years, which has since expired in September, she said. Michigan Works! has served as the group's grant administrator and is still on board with the coalition and involved in each airport's specific project within UMGAC.
Smith noted the group's success can also be measured with the increase in the coalition's membership.
She said right now there are around 60 or more members involved in the coalition, including companies and groups from the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, and Scotland.
"We just put out our first membership dues because, naturally, these contract awards are gone," she said. "In order to keep this coalition moving forward, we're going to go to a membership status fee."
The coalition also has recently received two awards from the International Economic Development Council, including a "silver award" for the creation of UMGAC under the category of "Regionalism and Cross-Border Coalition."
"Basically we are reaching out way further than the Upper Peninsula with this group and some of our members have received direct benefits and dollar awards because of our ability to be able to hit huge companies," she noted.
After just two years of existence, Smith said UMGAC has brought in more than $1 million in new business to its members and that various members have secured contracts with companies such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing.
Smith also provided an update on the airport's project within the group - the Delta Green Aerospace and Marine Integrator project.
According to UMGAC's website, the project "centers on the beginning life of an aircraft, providing greener systems and sub-systems through greener products, work methodologies and processes."
The project was started with Canadian company Explorer Solutions and is now in its third phase.
"We're still moving towards our aerospace incubator building which we're hoping will be built at the airport in our renaissance zone," said Smith. "We have new drawings that have been done and we are receiving 2-D renditions and are in the finishing stages of the feasibility study."
She said once this is completed, they will write for an EDA grant to include a 50 percent match for new incubators.
The project has also expanded to include a marine portion, as Smith pointed to Escanaba's Basic Marine and four other shipyards within the region and into Wisconsin that the project may benefit.
She said the project was discussed during a recent steering committee meeting.
"It consisted of 10 companies that are definitely on board and diligently working on seeking and bidding on RFPs in the ship-building industry - military or otherwise," she said. "One of our members just received a large award to refurbish many military retired vessels that were carrying up to 400."
She said members are also looking at some RFPs for brand-new ships, as the group is looking at where they can combine their assets to provide one or more parts for these ships.
"We're also looking at several facilities in our Delta County area that would suit the group to come together as one and actually manufacture a particular part that would go onto those new vessels," she said.
The next steering committee meeting for UMGAC will be held at the end of the month and will include discussion on marketing strategies to get the word out to shipbuilders and architects about the synergies the group can offer.
"We're very excited about the marine side of our project," said Smith. "It's going a lot faster than we expected, but it has solid commitment from the companies involved. Most of them are from the U.P. right now, and we also have two international."
In other business, the board:
set the county's 2012 millage to the maximum allowable amount of 7.2817 mills, with the amount due from the Convention Facility and Cigarette Tax Revenues both being divided according to their required formulas.
accepted the 2012 Apportionment Report, which breaks down millage rates for local units, school districts, Bay College, and the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD.