County accepts tax roll for Ascent Aviation funds

Susie Russell, Southeastern Regional Representative for the New Mexico Department of Economic Development, read a statement on the Ascent Aviation Services Project Thursday at the Chaves County Board of Commissioners meeting at the Chaves County Administrative Center. (Photo by Lisa Dunlap)

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The Chaves County Council of Commissioners has decided to serve as the tax agent for up to $ 4 million in public funding for the expansion of Arizona-based Ascent aviation services at Roswell Air Center.

At a meeting Thursday at the Chaves County Administrative Center, commissioners 5-0 approved an ordinance that will allow it to enter into two deals to receive and distribute the $ 4 million in Local Economic Development Act funding to Ascent Aviation.

A project participation agreement is between the county and Ascent Aviation, and an intergovernmental agreement is between the county and the New Mexico Department of Economic Development, which awarded the LEDA funds. The ordinance takes effect on December 18.

Ascent intends to erect a jumbo hangar on town property near West Earl Cummings Loop and Mathis Street to run a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business for commercial aircraft.

The $ 4 million in state funding would be used to reduce lease payments for the City of Roswell property. Scott Stark, director of Roswell Air Center, said the city and Ascent are in the final stages of lease negotiations, which will require approval from Roswell City Council.

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The southeastern regional representative of the state’s Economic Development Department spoke to commissioners on Thursday about the importance of the project.

“Ascent Aviation is one of our major projects and we are delighted to see it come to fruition,” said Susie Russell.

Ascent Aviation and the Department of Economic Development first announced the company’s expansion plan in Roswell in September 2020. The company has been operating for approximately 40 years and has two other MROs at Pinal Air Park in Marana and near the Tucson International Airport.

Russell also read a statement on behalf of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes.

“We are delighted to have a project that meets two of the governor’s priorities: promoting quality jobs in aviation and aerospace, providing successful economic projects in rural New Mexico,” the statement said. . “With the combination of foresight and local government commitment to see the value of Roswell Air Center and actively participate in building infrastructure using capital funding with LEDA, it is great to see this project come to fruition. . “

Mike Espiritu, president of Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp., said his organization has been working with Ascent and the state on the project for about two years.

He added that the University of Eastern New Mexico-Roswell and Ascent Aviation are working together to support the school’s aircraft maintenance program, which is expected to provide qualified personnel for the company.

“They have attended our hiring event before and have already hired people for the start of next year,” he said. “And we are very impatient and anxious and hope the project continues and creates a great benefit for the county.”

LEDA money will be refunded to Ascent as the company achieves certain hiring goals and other project milestones. The state has the right to recover money if goals and milestones are not met, including receiving a full refund of the money if the hangar and operations close before December 2026.

Chaves County also provided the Ascent Project $ 3 million out of the $ 5 million it received in February 2020. The money is being used for work on the site. The remaining $ 2 million of the capital expenditure is used to upgrade and replace the water lines on the southeast side of the Air Center.

In addition, Ascent Aviation chairman David Querio said his company expects to invest around $ 18 million in Roswell operations in the first few years. He said the company will employ around 100 to 130 aircraft maintenance and support personnel when it begins operations here, which is now expected by fall 2022.

By the third year of local activity, the company aims to begin the second phase of operations, which could involve a second jumbo hangar and an expansion of its services by converting commercial airliners to cargo planes. By December 2026, it expects to have approximately 354 local employees.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at [email protected]

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