Chennault International Airport broke ground today on a $4 million facility to enter the air cargo sector.
Stakeholders with golden shovels turned the first ceremonial dirt on Thursday to build an air cargo warehouse.
The new facility will be the centerpiece of Chennault’s latest effort to provide economic diversity and ultimately create new jobs at the airport, which is recognized nationally as an emerging aerospace hub.
The project is propelled by $3 million in capital outlay funding from the Louisiana Legislature with the balance of the funding paid by the Chennault International Airport Authority.
“The willingness to change and look for opportunities outside of the norm is critical to remaining relevant in our dynamic world today,” said Chennault Executive Director Kevin Melton. “Chennault remains a game-changer for Southwest Louisiana — and we’re excited to offer this new opportunity for more development and more jobs.”
Chennault has retained Ohio-based air cargo expert David Whitaker as a consultant to help identify potential corporate tenant partners in the time ahead.
“Chennault is a very robust airport with enormous potential and Southwest Louisiana is a cargo-rich region of the world,” said Whitaker, who has more than 30 years of airport and air cargo operations experience.
Construction of the 10,000-square-foot warehouse will take 12-18 about months. The contractor, Trahan Construction, bid, competed and was ultimately selected and the contract was executed on June 7.
As the warehouse is being built, ongoing discussions are planned with potential ground handling partners on such related issues as ramp handling, warehouse operations and securing unique ground equipment to service large aircraft.
Initial discussions have been very positive regarding the potential for Chennault.
Whitaker noted that a commercial market response is not immediately assured, but that the effort is still valuable in advancing Chennault’s objectives and numerous paths to commercial activity will be available.
Modern-day Chennault’s success in its nearly 35 years has been rooted in private-public linkages, with the airport as a marketer and landlord to corporations seeking infrastructure to do their work and have space for potential expansion.
Denise Rau, president of the Chennault International Airport Authority’s board of commissioners, cited that legacy of partnerships during her remarks at Thursday’s groundbreaking.
Rau said Chennault’s potential to become a Gulf Coast location for air cargo operations will rest in the same kind of partnerships that have elevated Chennault to what it is today.