German glider firm eyes Middlebury airport as base for East Coast business
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury State Airport could soon become the Northeast distribution center for a German glider company that is considering a partnership with an aviation business already located at the facility.
Jamie Gaucher, Middlebury’s business development director, declined to identify the German glider company at this point, citing the sensitivity of ongoing negotiations. But Gaucher did outline the framework of a possible deal that would result in a new building at the airport to accommodate a collaboration between the mystery company and J&M Aviation.
J&M Aviation has been a fixture at Middlebury State Airport for the past 13 years. The company provides maintenance, repair and other services for small aircraft. And it has also earned a reputation for being one of the best aircraft painting companies in the Northeast.
Gaucher described a deal through which the German company would ship glider components to J&M. J&M would assemble them and offer maintenance, repair and marketing services for the aircraft, which would be capable of touching down and leaving the Middlebury State Airport runway. The German gliders are equipped with engines that allow the pilots to fly to a desired altitude and then glide back to earth.
“They are extremely interested in Middlebury,” Gaucher said on Tuesday of the German company. “They are now waiting for a proposal or project outline from me.”
Gaucher is preparing that project outline in consultation with J&M and the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Aviation Program. VTrans would have to provide a lease for the Middlebury State Airport property on which a new building would be erected.
“We’re still in the early stages,” said Mike Vincent of J&M Aviation. “We’re trying to make sure it’s a good fit. I’m optimistic. If everything goes well, I think we will come up with something that will work. It’s all very doable.”
Vincent said the German company will soon fly one of its gliders to the Middlebury State Airport to give J&M workers an up-close look at the aircraft.
A signed deal would likely result in new jobs at the airport, according to Vincent. J&M currently has three full-time employees. Green Mountain Avionics, another business located at the airport, is also growing.
“If everything goes well and the product is moving, I’m sure it would (bring more jobs),” Vincent said.
That’s music to Gaucher’s ears. Middlebury voters, Middlebury College and the local business community recently agreed to bankroll Gaucher’s position for five years in an effort to stimulate more economic development and job growth in Addison County’s shire town. Gaucher has spent his first year learning the local business landscape and reaching out to entrepreneurial prospects throughout the world.
Gaucher hopes to have a signed agreement in place by the end of November and believes the glider company would be a good fit for the area.
“The Green Mountains provide ample soaring opportunities,” he said.
Indeed, Gaucher has even higher hopes for the Middlebury State Airport. He spoke of another business prospect — specializing in aviation research and development — that is also being cultivated for the site.
Gaucher believes additional business growth at the location could help leverage more Federal Aviation Administration dollars for capital investments in the airport — including extension of the runway to someday allow access to small jets.
“I believe that airport is severely under-utilized,” Gaucher said.
Meanwhile, Gaucher is also assisting Ferrisburgh firm Vermont Livestock in its efforts to redevelop and occupy approximately two-thirds of the 31,174-square-foot building at 183 Industrial Ave. that is owned by Anthony Neri.
Vermont Livestock has for several years been looking to grow its operations into a more modern and larger space. The company has been operating for the past half-century out of its Depot Street facility in Ferrisburgh, which was originally built as an icehouse during the early 1900s.
Players in the Vermont Livestock deal were scheduled to meet with some potential lenders on Thursday, Oct. 31, to work on a financing plan for the project, according to Gaucher.
“I hope (that deal) comes together before the end of the year,” Gaucher said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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