Airport Manager Tom Cochran Honored for His Role in Airport’s Development
WV Press Release Sharing
BEAVER, W.Va. – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and West Virginia Secretary of Economic Development Mitch Carmichael joined local leaders – including Raleigh County Memorial Airport (RCMA) manager Tom Cochran – in breaking ground for the 105-acre economic development expansion.
Jina Belcher, executive director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), shared her perspective: “A community’s airport is a driver of its well-being and economic development potential, and today’s celebration of its expansion for the recruitment of aviation and aerospace manufacturers is a bold step in the right direction.”
“As a pilot myself, I know firsthand how essential regional airports are to the quality of life and economic strength and safety of the community,” said Senator Manchin. “The expansion at Raleigh County Memorial Airport will provide local businesses with access to new markets, as well as help retain and attract businesses to the community, including West Virginia’s growing aerospace industry. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am proud to have secured $4.5 million in federal investment for this project, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact the expansion will have on job growth and economic prosperity in the region.”
West Virginia Secretary of Economic Development Mitch Carmichael said the state is experiencing an “economic renaissance.” He said more and more companies are interested in relocating here. “We need additional site-ready locations to accommodate this growth” he said. “This place (RCMA industrial site) is ideal for our economic development vision.”
Long-time airport manager Tom Cochran said, “It’s not just me — this is a 25-year-old project that took years of character development. It really came together when Jina Belcher at NRGRDA came on board to move it forward. This project offers hope, prosperity, and diversity. It’s a stepping stone for more opportunities, including other parts of the airport that can be developed along the way.”
Manchin, Carmichael, Cochran and Belcher led the 10 a.m. private groundbreaking on the site of one of the first pads being prepared for new jobs by contractor A.L.L. Construction, Inc., of Mount Storm, W.Va. Afterwards, they returned to the airport terminal for a public reception and remarks.
Belcher said the Raleigh County Memorial Airport is a major aviation and economic development hub for southern West Virginia. She said the improvements at the airport — a new 105 acres ideal for economic development, and the new aviation maintenance training program at New River Community and Technical College — make the New River Gorge region ideal for aerospace and cargo businesses and jobs. A training hangar for the college’s aviation maintenance program will be located adjacent to the airport.
Local, state and federal financing contributed to the $10.4 million economic development project.
Major funding sources include:
- $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA)
- $1.75 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission
- $3,239,000 through the Infrastructure Jobs Development Council (IJDC) from the State of West Virginia)
- $1,365,000 from the Raleigh County Commission
- $200,000 from Appalachian Power
- $1 million interim project financing from Pendleton Community Bank
- $75,000 from the Raleigh County Memorial Airport through a Federal Aviation Administration grant
“The airport is poised for a major influx of new businesses and increased air travel thanks to the leadership of our long-time airport manager Tom Cochran and the infusion of multiple sources of funding to create site-ready land to recruit aerospace and cargo firms,” said Belcher.
“Raleigh County Memorial Airport has ample land and infrastructure to attract aerospace industry businesses to southern West Virginia,” Belcher added. “The airport is located three miles east of Beckley and about 30 minutes from the Virginia border, offering daily commercial flights as well as private and charter options. In addition, RCMA is open 24 hours a day, employs 12 people, features two runways and two industrial parks, and is located near three interstate highways. The airport is only one mile from the convergence of I-64 and I-77, and one hour from I-81.”
Belcher added that the region, which is home to West Virginia Institute of Technology and New River Community and Technical College, offers two- and four-year academic programs as well as an abundant labor supply for companies seeking new or expanded facilities. She said, “these training and education opportunities were part of the reason we were awarded the AEROReady Community Certification, enhancing workforce potential in seven counties.” Those counties include Raleigh, Fayette, Summers, Nicholas, Wyoming, Mercer, and McDowell.
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About Raleigh County Memorial Airport: The Raleigh County Memorial Airport is an important component to Beckley and the greater Raleigh County infrastructure. Our facilities offer competitive commercial transportation opportunities and affordable options for private pilots. With Via Air offering daily flights to and from Charlotte, N.C.’s Douglass International Airport (CLT) to our affordable hangar, charter, and fuel prices, RCMA is a viable air travel solution. Within the airport fence, we have 160 acres of available property for hangar development with road access, all utilities, and direct access to the runway. Our East and West Industrial Parks are an important resource for local business development, offering more than 250 acres of commercial properties ready for development. Website: http://flybeckley.com/
About New River Gorge Regional Development Authority: The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority’s (NRGRDA) mission is to initiate, facilitate and support the economic and community development efforts within the counties of Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers located in this region of southern West Virginia. NRGRDA stimulates the regional economy through business expansion and retention efforts, including an extensive portfolio of financial services; the management of sites for new companies locating to our region; and serving as a point of access for local service providers which offer a variety of technical assistance for business owners. Website: https://nrgrda.org/