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Aero-Smith expanding in Martinsburg

December 06, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Aero-Smith Inc. is expanding its services to include storing corporate planes by opening a new hangar at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport near Martinsburg, the company's owner said Monday.

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A ribbon-cutting for the $400,000 hangar on the nonmilitary side of the airport will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, said George Smith, president and owner of the Washington County-based firm.

The company is scheduled to start working out of the new hangar in early January 2000.

The expansion is expected to add six to 10 jobs, most of them full time, at Aero-Smith's Martinsburg operation, Smith said. The firm now employs 18 people in Martinsburg and 22 at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The new jobs would pay between $9 and $17 an hour with benefits, Smith said in a telephone interview from St. Louis.

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The 14,000-square-foot hangar is the result of an alliance between Aero-Smith and Cardinal Air Limited Liability Corp., an investment firm consisting of two Martinsburg-area investors who wish to remain anonymous, Smith said.

Smith said it was Cardinal's investors who approached him two years ago and asked him what the area could use more than anything else.

The response was a corporate hangar to store corporate turboprops and jets, giving firms in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas a less expensive alternative than their major airports, Smith said.

The new hangar can house eight medium-size jets.

Additionally, the expansion allows Aero-Smith to have a maintenance presence at Martinsburg as well as at Hagerstown, Smith said.

That made sense since the firm has a charter operation offering service from Hagerstown or Martinsburg, Smith said.

The firm has four planes - a seven-passenger executive jet, a six-passenger corporate turboprop, a six-passenger, multi-engine aircraft and a four-passenger twin-engine.

"We bring a lot of services to any airport we come to," Smith said.

Aero-Smith is a full-service firm with fuel sales, de-icing, maintenance, charter flight training and aircraft sales.

Smith said the Martinsburg airport is an economic development catalyst for a growing area. "The airport will be as important as the interstate system," he said.

Most large companies are looking to rural areas where they can find abundant workers who have a good work ethic, Smith said. "The Martinsburg area is one of those areas," he said.

Smith said the company is considering at least three other locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to expand its operations. He said Aero-Smith could grow to operate out of as many as 10 locations.

The new hangar is connected to Aero-Smith's previously existing 6,000-square-foot hangar by a new 1,200-square-foot office complex, Smith said.

The firm began in the Hagerstown area in September 1993 and expanded to the Martinsburg area in February 1994.

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