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Dalrymple Presents $5.6 Million for UAS Park as Construction Start Looms
Post Date: Jul 07 2015

By Grand Forks Herald
With a memo line reading "Grand Sky UAS Park," Gov. Jack Dalrymple presented a check Monday for $5.6 million to Grand Forks County.

The state funds will allow construction crews to get in the ground as early as next week to begin building the estimated $25 million unmanned aircraft systems business park, which is touted as the first of its kind in the nation.     

"I think all of us in this room together are building a new industry in North Dakota," Dalrymple said. "It's not very often that you can stand there and say we're building a new industry. Maybe a new company or a nonprofit, but very seldom can we say we are creating an entirely new industry for our state and for our nation."

Of the amount allocated through the state Department of Commerce, $2.5 million depended on the park securing a tenant, which came in the form of a commitment from industry giant Northrop Grumman. The remaining $3.1 million was designated by the state Legislature for infrastructure improvements.

Grand Sky aims to provide space to tenants in various areas of the unmanned aircraft industry, from manufacturers to data analysts to flight trainers. The development consists of 217 acres of land adjacent to Grand Forks Air Force Base, which in turn will be developed to offer 1.2 million square feet of usable space for tenants.

"The state of North Dakota has made a huge investment in Grand Sky," said Tom Swoyer Jr., president of Grand Sky Development Co., the business managing the park's development.

Funding development
The park site, located just southwest the base, is rented from the U.S. Air Force by the county after officials signed a lease earlier this year.

The county in turn leases the land to Grand Sky Development Co.

Swoyer said most of the state money will be used for installing or upgrading infrastructure needed before the park's offices, hangars, data storage facilities and other buildings can be constructed.

The first project will be posting a fence around the site, which will establish a secure perimeter.

Normally, entities such as cities can recoup infrastructure installation costs through special assessments placed on the land, which are then passed on to property owners.

In this case, the land is owned by the federal government and is not taxable, which means Grand Sky can't use this method and makes state funding even more vital.

The state's commitment also helps attract tenants, according to Swoyer.

"Without this kind of money, we can't leverage the private investment that's coming," he said. "Without the state investment, it's very difficult to ... get the private companies to this kind of a project."

Continued growth
The funding to get construction underway at Grand Sky is another milestone for the UAS industry in the state.

North Dakota is one of six states awarded a UAS test site by the Federal Aviation Administration in December 2013.

The test site, known as the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and also headquartered in Grand Forks County, is tasked with researching the integration of unmanned aircraft into commercial airspace.

In total, Dalrymple said the state has spent more than $30 million on unmanned aircraft system ventures, including Grand Sky, the test site and other research and development initiatives around the state, including at UND.

Monday's check likely won't be the last cut by the state for Grand Sky.

"I'm happy to say to this is by no means the end of it," Dalrymple said of the state funding. "There is contingency funding established by our legislature—$4.4 million in additional funding—as Grand Sky continues to develop and land more tenants."

In total, about $12.5 million is included in the state's 2015-2017 budget for UAS initiatives.

Dalrymple Presents $5.6 Million for UAS Park as Construction Start Looms - Grand Forks Herald
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