|By Drew Moody|
The County Commission room was crowded last week as John Kasuba prepared to present his development plan to those in attendance.
Kasuba is not asking the state or county for tax breaks, or loans of any kind. They do need a bridge, or the Kasubas will have to relocate the airpark elsewhere. In this case, relocating will mean leaving the area.
Kasuba retired as a Lockheed Martin engineer after 34 years of service. Much of his time there was spent with the "Skunk Works," on classified high tech programs. Those operations also made him a world traveler. Kasuba is also a USMC combat veteran. His wife, Charuwan 'Nok' Kasuba is a former corporate (IT) executive with an MBA degree.
Both believe West Virginia is steeped in untapped potential. The couple conducted an extensive nationwide search for the ideal business location, ultimately choosing the Glenville area. They required a rural area within a short flying distance to many large metropolitan urban areas.
Kasuba and Assessor Gary Wolfe used the La Casa Airpark's artist drawings and construction plans and determined the tax windfall for the county could be as high as $10 million over a five year period.
The facility will feature a runway exceeding 5,000 feet long. The airport will have the appropriate facilities and equipment to qualify for federal airport system recognition. Upon completion the facility will have the potential to function as a regional airport capable of landing 737 jets.
However, that's neither the intent or main mission of the endeavor.
La Casa Airpark will specialize in avionics as well as research and development. "We're going to build airplanes on demand," Kasuba said. "You tell me what you want and we'll build it."
The company will use computers and software to create state-of-the-art navigation and communication systems, among other things. This could also extend to collision avoidance and sophisticated radar systems as well. It's a demand driven business. It's a "sky's the limit" proposition.
La Casa Airpark intends on bringing in two aviation-related, light
manufacturing companies to support the overall business plan.
In some applications the task will be to improve capabilities which already exist. In other instances the work will be to combine or invent capabilities not previously available.
Kasuba estimates there will be about 130 long term jobs at the airpark.
Plans include a housing development with up to 80 homes. The majority will be gated and attached to the project intended for workers and contractors at the facility.
The rest may be offered to urban pilots looking for a perfect wilderness retreat that happens to sport a landing strip.
There's little doubt a die-hard pilot would find the development a literal 'almost Heaven' in West Virginia.
Kasuba pledged to preserve a "country environment" and not overdevelop the project.
"They're not asking for a dime, what more could you want," said John Baisden, who specializes in small business and community development with Senator Jay Rockefeller's office.
According to Baisden this project would be unique in the state. In fact there are but a handful of such businesses in North America.
Baisden said 'personally' he supported the business plan. While he wouldn't venture to speak for Senator Rockefeller, he did say the senator is consistently supportive of economic development and job growth in the Mountain State.
County Commissioner Reta Kight thinks the Kasubas have a great project. "I was really pleased with some of the things he had to say," she said.
The presence of an airport here would have a variety of positive implications, according to Dr. Peter Barr, President of Glenville State College. It will bring new residents and boost the economy in a number of ways, he said.
Barr believes any number of $200,000-plus a year executive-pilots could either commute from Gilmer County to work, or retire here.
In many cases a 100-300 mile commute by air may be safer and faster than negotiating metro traffic.
Aviation technology is rapidly changing and within the next several months a few comparatively low-priced, sub-$2M Humvee-sized personal jets capable of cruising speeds well over 300 mph will be available on the market.
An airport could also facilitate establishing a much needed 24/7 health care facility, according to Dr. Barr.
"We just need to, as a community, help him achieve that," Barr said.
A task force was established with the intent of solving the bridge issue. Fifteen people signed up to help.
Misty Drennen, executive director of the Gilmer County Economic Development Association, characterized the meeting as 'very positive.' She also noted that 15 community members were anxious to make a collaborative effort to help the project get off the ground.
About 25 people attended the meeting.
Any local 'meeting veteran' could attest 25 people is a superbowl-sized crowd in Glenville. A recent, well-publicized pandemic flu alert gathering drew about 40 people not connected in some way to the event.
Read more with map and photos at wvmountainsun.com