Published in Economic Development
Grand Rapids airport announces $90M expansion COURTESY RENDERING

Grand Rapids airport announces $90M expansion

BY Wednesday, August 28, 2019 12:40pm

GRAND RAPIDS — A $90 million expansion at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport will aid in economic development in West Michigan, the airport authority board said Wednesday.

Airport officials gathered to announce “Project Elevate,” which includes several components meant to ease and expand passenger experience.

The project begins with the extension of Concourse A to accommodate projected passenger growth over the next 20 years. Construction will begin in 2020 to add eight gates to the concourse and other amenities. 

“Project Elevate will change the face of the airport while providing additional capacity and a reimagined customer experience,” said Casey Ries, engineering and planning director for the airport authority.

The expansion of a terminal apron to support the concourse expansion is already underway because of more than $14.4 million secured through federal and state commitments from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The airport is also seeking federal approval for a second development associated with Project Elevate: the addition of a federal inspection station to screen international commercial passenger flights. A third planned project would relocate the airport’s current air traffic control tower to make way for additional tenant hangars and parking.

The addition of the federal inspection station will expand capabilities to service international flights, according to airport officials. Currently when an international flight lands, U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents meet and screen the passengers at the aircraft. The inspection station will provide a permanent, centralized location for the agents. 

The airport authority board has worked with legislators and The Right Place Inc. to secure a $5 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for the inspection station, which is estimated to cost $24 million total.

Funding for the Project Elevate comes from federal and state grants, municipal bonds issued by the airport and user fees. Design and construction partners include Dallas-based architecture firm HKS Inc. and Lansing-based contractor Christman Co., which has an office in Grand Rapids.  

When complete in 2022, the project will position the airport to accept additional daily flights. Airport officials also anticipate the creation of 300 jobs as a result of the projects.

The project announced Wednesday builds off of the $47 million gateway transformation project at the airport that began in 2014, and is set to conclude in 2020. Currently the second phase of that project is underway, which includes the relocation of TSA equipment, additional bathrooms and dining and beverage options near baggage claim. 

Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of The Right Place, said economic development in the region and the airport are “joined at the hip,” noting the airport is part of attracting companies and workers to the area. Project Elevate will enhance that, she said. 

“The airport needs to meet future travelers’ needs,” Klohs said. “Project Elevate will do that, and will provide an impressive welcome for all of those who come through this front door to West Michigan.”

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