A $5 million investment to expand an aviation ramp at Missoula International Airport is paying dividends by growing business and attracting new tenants, the airport director told Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday.

As a result, the county agreed to reimburse the airport for some costs related to completing the work, honoring an agreement it made in 2013 as the project got underway.

Airport director Cris Jensen said the airport initially asked the Missoula County Development Office for assistance in funding improvements to the eastern general aviation apron in 2013.

At the time, Jensen said, the project anticipated a shortfall of $800,000 in non-federal funding. The development office agreed to provide $400,000 in Tax Increment Financing to help cover the difference, when matched by $400,000 from the airport and Northstar Jet.

“Through contributions from the TIF district, Northstar and the airport, we were able to fund the project,” Jensen said Tuesday. “Thanks to our engineer’s diligence and good bids, we came in $344,000 under budget.”

Given the project’s reduced cost, Jensen asked the commissioners to keep their pledge by matching the $277,646 paid by the airport and Northstar Jet.

“I would hope you would think we’re good stewards of your money,” Jensen said. “We did our best to manage the project to ensure we had the best product possible at the lowest possible price. It’s already showing results.”

With the apron’s expansion complete, Jensen said Homestead Helicopters has already built a new facility valued at roughly $1 million.

Northstar Jet continues to expand its fleet of aircraft – an opportunity that resulted from the additional space, Jensen said.

“We have another project that will hopefully start this summer with NorthWest Medstar building a new facility down there,” he said. “The tax base will continue to grow and the jobs will continue to grow. I think this is a wise investment and a wise use of your money.”

Commissioners agreed and approved reimbursing the project at $227,646 using TIF funding. The airport will then refund $172,353 to Northstar Jet for overfunding its share of the apron project.

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