Bourbon County officials are considering a plan to expand Bluegrass Station at Avon by 2,500 acres to build an 8,000- to 10,000-foot runway and two two-bay hangars to accommodate C-130 military cargo planes that need to be outfitted for special operations missions, according to a report in the Bourbon County Citizen.
The expanded campus could create a reported 3,500 new jobs in the next 10 years. A plan for acquiring the land from 10 Bourbon County landowners was presented to the county magistrates on Wednesday by Judge Executive Mike Williams.
Williams said Friday that the county fiscal board voted 5 to 3 on Wednesday “to pursue a finance plan for consideration, if we get to a point to begin acquisition of land. Not to acquire the land ... but to pursue a plan to finance it, if that’s the direction we choose to go.”
The county hopes to have a financing plan in place by Jan. 15.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Bluegrass Station approached Bourbon County with the plan, Williams said, which has been under consideration by the military for several years.
It’s unclear how much the land purchases would cost the county. Two banks, Kentucky Bank and Traditional Bank, have expressed interest in loaning the county money to buy the property, which is in the heart of some of the most valuable Thoroughbred horse farms in the world.
Williams acknowledged that concerns about noise around livestock, including horses, had been raised, but that the issue would be dealt with in meetings.
“There are airports around horses all over Kentucky, including in Fayette county as they fly over Keeneland,” he said.
Under the proposal, the county would buy the land and Bluegrass Station would buy a portion to build the airport for use initially by Bluegrass Station’s existing tenant, Lockheed Martin, which already provides “a wide range of tailored contractor logistics support services” to special operations forces, including helicopter and vehicle repair and modifications, according to Lockheed Martin.
The company says it employs more than 2,500 people at the facility, which straddles the Bourbon-Fayette county line.
Lockheed Martin would build the hangars so they could expand their contract to cover fixed-wing aircraft, according to a release.
Lockheed Martin has received approval for previous economic incentives for the state — $26 million in 2011, reduced to $15 million in 2013 — but it’s unclear if the company ever received any tax money. The company was required to maintain certain numbers of jobs but repeatedly laid off hundreds of workers.
In October 2014, workers at Bluegrass Station went on strike, alleging they were being asked unfairly to take a 30 percent to 50 percent pay cut. After five months, the union ratified a contract that included a smaller salary cut.
Williams told the Bourbon County fiscal court that the expansion will bring 350 new jobs with an average annual salary of $60,000 by 2020 and 3,500 jobs by 2027, according to the Bourbon County Citizen.
Bourbon County would operate the new airfield as a general aviation airport, under the control of a new county board. The runway would not be used for commercial passenger air traffic.
Most of the land would be available for other tenants, Williams said.