Brochures will pitch hangar in Cape

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Without a tenant or buyer, the city is stuck with the bond payments.

More than eight months after financially troubled Renaissance Aircraft abandoned plans to build airplanes in Cape Girardeau, the city's still stuck with an empty hangar and costly bond payments.

City and local economic development officials hope a new marketing strategy will locate a tenant or buyer for the building.

Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET, the local industrial recruitment association, has developed a four-color brochure that will be mailed to 5,100 aviation manufacturers and aviation-related companies.

AmerenUE's economic development department is mailing out the brochures as part of a collaborative effort with the industrial recruitment organization.

Mitch Robinson, who heads the recruitment group, said he would be pleased if anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent of the targeted businesses respond to the mailer.

Even without the brochure, Robinson has been hard at work trying to market the hangar. "We have two prospects we are talking to right now," he said.

Selling or leasing the hangar would provide the revenue needed to pay off $2.6 million in bonds that financed construction of the hangar and extension of water and sewer lines to serve Renaissance Aircraft, officials said.

The bond payments are due in April and October each year. The bond issue currently isn't scheduled to be paid off until 2021.

The city would have to make about $260,000 annually in bond payments each fiscal year if no buyer or tenant is found, city finance director John Richbourg said.

The city made a $168,000 bond payment in April, using $28,000 remaining in the bond fund and $140,000 in city revenue.

But Robinson and airport manager Bruce Loy remain optimistic that they can convince an aviation business to locate in the 52,000-square-foot hangar.

"It is a nice hangar," Robinson said. The building could be suitable for a startup manufacturer or an existing firm that is looking to expand, he said.

Recreational market

Loy said the city might be able to capitalize on the new recreational aircraft market.

Companies are looking to build propeller planes that weigh less than traditional general aviation planes and fly at slower speeds, Loy said. The planes would be marketed to recreational pilots looking to fly relatively short distances and fly during daylight hours.

Bond requirements currently restrict the hangar's use to aviation manufacturing. But Loy said the use could be expanded to other aviation-related businesses if the city refinances the debt.

Renaissance Aircraft relocated from Eastman, Ga., to Cape Girardeau in 2001 with promises of manufacturing hundreds of two-seater propeller planes a year and creating at least 200 jobs.

But the promises never materialized. The company was financially drained by a lengthy legal battle with a private aviation foundation over the rights to build a particular model of plane. Renaissance Air won the legal fight but couldn't secure the investment to get the venture going.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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