The City of Oak Ridge said it has received a $500,000 contribution from the UT-Battelle Development Corporation to help with the planned airport at Heritage Center, the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge.
The contribution is meant to provide funding that can be used to secure state and/or federal grants that require a local funding match, a city press release said.
Thomas Zacharia, president and chief executive officer of UT-Battelle and director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Jeff Smith, president of UT-Battelle Development Corporation, presented the contribution to Oak Ridge City Council at its March 8 meeting. Smith is also vice chair of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority.
“I believe the presence of a new airport will be a key differentiator for this community because it supports existing trends so clearly: The airport will make Oak Ridge more attractive to companies and professionals interested in low-cost, high-quality communities with easy access to other cities,” Zacharia said, according to the press release.
“The planned airport project at East Tennessee Technology Park is an essential component in the future economic growth of the region and an important feature for potential business development,” Smith said. “Many businesses or projects that could be positively impacted by the construction of the airport have ongoing research partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.”
At the City Council meeting, Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch expressed appreciation for the contribution: “I’d like to express sincere thanks to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, its collective commitment to the best interest and promotion of our city, and particularly to Dr. Zacharia and Mr. Smith for their personal involvement and commitment to our city. This contribution toward the airport can certainly be a true incentive and motivator and help us move toward the finish line.”
If the Oak Ridge Airport project doesn’t proceed, the funds will be returned to UTBDC, the press release said.
“The city hopes this will create more national infrastructure opportunities for the city to get this project completed, and the overall matching funds will be used to make this project happen,” Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said. “We appreciate all of the help and support Smith and Dr. Zacharia have given the city and this planned airport project, and we look forward to seeing it through.”
The airport project discussion continues, and it is centered in the Oak Ridge City Manager’s Office, the press release said.