The sky is the limit: RAISE grant would create sustainable investments at Ardmore airpark

Robby Short
The Daily Ardmoreite
The Ardmore Development Authority  is currently in the process of applying for a $25 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant with the United States Department of Transportation.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the Ardmore Development Authority as the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce. 

The federal push for infrastructure improvements could lead to significant investments into the Ardmore Industrial Airpark, both public and private.

The Ardmore Development Authority is currently in the process of applying for a $25 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant with the United States Department of Transportation.

Ardmore Development Authority president Mita Bates said the grant includes components that requires a commitment to sustainability energy, which would include vehicle charging stations as well as other options that may become available during the developmental process.  

“We keep hearing more and more about electric trucks and the tugs that pull freight,” Bates said. “Every request that we get now for new business or new industry has a renewable component to it. Two years ago, that was not true. One hundred percent want something involved that is renewable.”

The grant is separate from earmarked federal funds requested by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole. The earmarked funds, initially requested in the amount of $50 million, have been capped at $5 million. Bates said earmarked funds will likely come in below the $5 million mark, but that more funding may become available through other grant opportunities. 

“The equity piece, not a lot has been said about it, but the underlying thing is that they want more of this money to get to rural areas versus everything always going to urban cores, since historically that’s where most of the money goes,” Bates said. 

Bates said the project likely wouldn’t break ground until late 2022 provided that the grant is approved later this year. If approved, the grant would be used for various infrastructure improvements including roads, runways and at least one new building.

Bates said the improvement could lead to further public/private investments similar to the recent Dollar General expansion. 

“We want to create an environment for private investment,” Bates said. 

The continued investments at the airpark are part of a 25-year plan with the potential to create as many as 8,000 new jobs at the property. 

Less than five years in, though difficult to quantify, the plan appears to be on track to surpass such lofty estimates.

“Dollar General, direct employees, they say is between 900 to 1,000. So, if you ask how many employees they have, the answer you are going to get is a thousand,” Bates said. “But that doesn’t include all the contract fleet people. It doesn’t include their contractors. So, if you get down to the employee impact at Dollar General, it’s probably closer to 2,000.”

Bates said most of the new jobs created at the airpark recently have been through expansion of existing companies like Dollar General, East Jordan and King Aerospace. As more and more of the foundation is laid, more opportunities could become available. 

“While we recruit every day, we have some work to do at the airpark,” Bates said. “If you were out there five to six years ago, it was a little rough in places. We’ve invested a significant amount of money so that now we can go out and get those businesses.”

Bates said the efforts onsite and behind the scenes by staff has created a bit of buzz surrounding development opportunities in Ardmore. 

“We have seen — what we call the deal flow, and keep in mind, you don’t get every deal,” Bates said. “But we are getting three times as many inquiries as before. That means we are on the map; we’ve done a good job promoting Ardmore. People are wanting out of the congestion of North Texas, and we are beautifully poised for that. The deal flow has picked up a lot. Oklahoma is on the map right now.”