It wasn’t the first time Hershey Flying Service was a major topic of discussion at the City Council meeting, and there have been several mentions in the past few months.
But the discussion had never gone into this much detail as it did at the Aug. 27 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Company owner Jared Storm, who also operates aerial ag spraying services out of Wahoo, detailed his plans to build an aviation repair service at the David City Municipal Airport. The facility’s 22,000 square foot building location would be just south of the airport entrance off of Nebraska 15. Initial staffing calls for up to 10 employees.
“This is an economic boost for David City. We specialize in ag aircraft. We need to come into a community like David City that is willing to help us with some infrastructure needs, because that is going to be a $1.2 million building,” Storm said.
Hershey Flying Service has been located near Hershey 20 miles west of North Platte, since 1949. Storm bought the company in 2011. The company specializes in the Grumman Ag Cat, an ag aerial spray plane that got its start in the 1950s. Storm’s long range goal is to build the plane in David City, he said, but until then he said the company would continue to be involved in building ag plane parts and doing repairs. The company’s website says the company is “Everything Ag Cat … and more.”
“I’m moving back here for a lot of reason but one of them is to hire more people that can develop this business,” Storm said. “You’ve got Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, you have Omaha and Columbus. You have a pretty good pool of people in this area that would bode well for an aircraft manufacturing facility,” he said.
Mayor Alan Zavodny acknowledged that Storm's project had been in discussions over the past three years. He said the most recent details involved moving the facility closer to the west side of the city’s airport property to save in the cost of installing water lines to the east. The western location would mean that a taxiway would be needed to run parallel to the airport’s driveway entrance. One of the hangars now lining the west side of the airport would be removed.
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Storm said he’d like to finalize a land lease agreement the city this month, and that at the earliest, builders could be on the site this fall. He said he would like to move company operations to David City by next summer, but he still has a list of details to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and Nebraska Department of Aeronautics.
Storm said the airport is operating far below its potential for economic impact to the city.
“This would be the beginning of trying to develop your airport,” he said, explaining that his company is an approved ag plane repair facility.
“If we have an aircraft repair station here you are going to have a lot more traffic through this airport,” Storm said. “I don’t know of another solely ag aviation facility in the country that’s a repair station.”
The key, he said is to get other aviation entities to bring their facilities to the airport.
“To develop a new airport you want people who are going to put their own money into developing the airport. If you have to pay for all the buildings that go in out here, you are never going to have the money to do it,” Storm said.
Along those development lines, the City Council also heard from Eric Johnson of Kirkham Michael Associates, which is working on the airport development plan for the city.
Johnson explained that the city has $600,000 in FAA funds that are on a limited timeline for developing hangars and other facilities. Johnson detailed the first possible project, a six-plane hangar that would be built west of the current small hangars. If the funds are not used for development within four years, the funds must be returned or assigned to another airport in Nebraska.