Moving to Improve Chennault Int'l Airport

Reported by: Britney Glaser

A new effort to bring in more high-tech jobs to the lake area could mean major improvements to an existing asset, Chennault International Airport.

When Excel Jet, Ltd., a jet manufacturing company out of Colorado first approached the City of Lake Charles about a potential move to the lake area, the condition of Chennault's property became an issue. Now, regardless of whether or not Excel moves to Chennault - city officials say it's time to invest in improvements to this existing facility.

For over a month, there has been talk of Excel Jet possibly moving its operation to Chennault International Airport. In an effort to keep this opportunity alive, the Lake Charles City Council has been addressing an underlying issue at hand - the need for greater infrastructure on Chennault's property.  Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach explains, "Sewers, water, roads, those types of improvements. What Chennault has indicated to us is that they're interested in building a new road, one that's been needed for a long time to take traffic off the airport runway."

About 80 percent of Chennault's property is owned by the city and Calcasieu Parish Police Jury. Mayor Roach says investing in the city's own property is needed for existing businesses like Northrup Grumman and Aeroframe, while also attracting new companies to the area.  "It's an investment that will accommodate and encourage other business development out at Chennault," says Mayor Roach.

With no opposition from the City Council, city officials will now move forward with plans to improve Chennault's property.  "This is simply an ordinance that was passed that came out of our discussions concerning Excel Jet," says Mayor Roach, "and led to something, I think, far more beneficial for operations out at the airpark - something that will serve the community for years to come."

The city is still looking to invest about $500,000 in improvements at Chennault, along with another $500,000 investment from the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.

*Also at the City Council meeting Wednesday evening, a follow-up to a story we told you about Tuesday. A chairman was appointed to review bids for the demolition of the old Sears Automotive building and the construction of a new transit facility.