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Green aviation group gets new funding

October 10, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - The Upper Michigan Green Aviation Coalition has been selected for a second year of funding through the Small Business Administration.

The coalition, currently made up of the Sawyer International Airport, the Delta County Airport and the Houghton County Memorial Airport, is also adding a fourth member airport - the Menominee-Marinette Twin County Airport.

The coalition will receive $600,000 in its second year from the SBA. Now encompassing 60 members from across the Upper Peninsula, the country and international companies, the coalition allows its members to network with companies outside of the U.P. to create jobs locally.

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"I can't express how valuable that type of networking is," said Vikki Kulju, coalition spokesperson.

Each member airport is focusing on a different aspect of green aviation, with Sawyer focusing on aircraft recycling, Houghton focusing on green military aviation and Delta County focusing on building greener aircraft.

Kelly Smith, assistant manager of the Delta County Airport, said the coalition has brought that airport opportunities it would not have found otherwise.

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"This has put us face to face," Smith said. "It's just amazing what we've been able to do in a short period of time."

The Delta Green Aerospace Integrators focuses on companies building lighter, more environmentally friendly parts which allows aircraft to consume less fuel. Aircraft can also be built with the plane's eventual end of life, so that less of the aircraft ends up in a landfill, Smith said. Currently the Delta County airport is in its third phase of building its program, working to identify an anchor business to center its green work around.

The SBA grant will help to fund consulting work that allows the member airports to move through the phases of setting up their green aviation initiatives.

The newest member airport, Twin Counties Airport, will begin phase one in November, in which a green focus for that airport will be identified.

"If they can keep that work here, they can grow jobs here," said Holly Peoples, director of business services for Michigan Works the Job Force Board, which is administering the grant for the coalition.

Peoples said already U.P. companies have been able to sign nondisclosure agreements with major aviation companies, as well as find opportunities for government contracts, thanks to the efforts of the coalition.

"I've been able to see where small businesses have been able to directly benefit," said Joel Schultz of the Michigan Small Business Technology Development Center. "The big plus of the coalition is the outside interest and investment in our area."

In the past year, the coalition organized a Green Aviation Conference Series held in Marquette, Gladstone and Houghton, featuring speakers from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association. Funding from the SBA has also helped with website and brochure development, attendance at industry trade shows, strategic development at the three airports and a variety of training.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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